I maintain that home ownership is over-rated. If I had my druthers, I’d be living in a condo in the city. But alas, my ex-husband wanted to live in a house with a large yard and lots of mature trees. I never thought I’d get divorced, so I certainly never thought I’d have to rake. God has a sense of humor. So needless to say, I was all sorts of pissed off the first year or two after the divorce.
I’ve learned a lot about life through yard work:
1) More is not always better: Lots of big, mature trees produce lots of leaves. But here’s the thing with trees–they litter and they don’t pick up after themselves. The first autumn after my divorce, I cried every weekend. I am not kidding when I say I filled 10-15 bags a week, for weeks, with leaves. It felt like Groundhog Day. There were 17 trees on a third of an acre. More is not better.
2) Good Enough is really Good Enough: So part of the problem with #1, is that I used to be quite the Perfectionist. This doesn’t work so well when you’re obsessed with picking up Every. Single. Leaf. I am not kidding when I say I could not leave a leaf on the lawn. It was a little exhausting. Especially when the leaves keep falling. And the wind keeps blowing. I may have lost touch with reality for a while there. I’ve learned to do my best, and Good Enough is Just Fine.
3) Your outsides don’t say anything about your insides: My house doesn’t have bad curb appeal. The lawn is always mowed. I stay on top of the mulching and weeding and pruning. Fairly new siding and windows. Looks pretty good. I sort of feel bad for first-time visitors. They walk in and BAM! They’re assaulted with a lots of primary-colored plastic toys, bookbags, books, homework, socks, dust, and possibly cat vomit depending on what day you’re visiting. My friend said once, “I love walking into your home. It looks so…well-lived in.” Yes, we live well; we just apparently don’t organize nor clean up well. Don’t judge my insides by my outsides.
4) No matter what you do, sometimes things die. Let go: I was also obsessed for years with growing grass. There were so many dead patches and weeds. I wanted my outsides to look good, and I wanted perfection. So I wanted a good lawn. I would painstakingly aerate, seed, and water, and grass would grow. I would rejoice. Until I turned around to see that other patches of grass were dying. And two spots in the yard just refused to grow grass. And one spot in one of the garden beds kills every plant I’ve ever planted there–it’s some sort of weird dead zone. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, now matter how you follow the directions or rules, things die. Relationships, dreams, vegetation. Let it go.
5) Slow and steady wins the race, there’s no rushing things: In my aforementioned quest for perfection and pretty outsides, I wanted changes NOW. This kind of attitude (some rude people call this Impatience) doesn’t produce good results for vegetation that follows seasonal rules dictated by a little thing called nature. Rules like being dormant for half the year. No matter how hard you try or wish, there’s no rushing the life cycle of a perennial. And nothing replaces the steady process of fertilizing one season, hydrating consistently, seeding and fertilizing in another season, and waiting. Repeat.
6) Don’t be greedy: Landscaping was not one of my ex-husband’s strengths. I wanted to fill those garden beds with lots of thriving plants. People offered me plants from their gardens. I didn’t have a lot of money, so I eagerly took these generous offers. I was warned they were invasive plants. But I thought that would be a good thing–I thought the bare spots would fill in quickly and nicely. Be careful what you wish for, and don’t be greedy. To this day I am still pulling them out one by one, year after year. “Invasive” is putting it mildly.
7) It’s always something: I used to think once I achieved a goal, that would be it. I could sit back and move on to another project or life event. Done. Mother Nature: she is one sneaky wench with her life lessons. So back to those trees–not only do they litter leaves, but they also toss branches willy nilly too. After storms, on windy days, when the sun is out, when they just want to piss me off. So I would go out and gather the branches, break them down, pile them up for recycling, and just get pissy about it. I am not lazy or exaggerating (this time) when I say it can take hours sometimes. Some days it felt like I lived in the forest. But I’d rest and be done with it. And the next week, I’ll be damned if those trees didn’t conspire and throw more branches down. There’s always something.
8) You get what you get and you don’t get upset: We bought this house for a reasonable price, but I had to buy my ex-husband out of his share of the house when we divorced. This was at the height of the crazy housing market so I am stuck with this house for a long time. He liked the house, I always hated it. But I’ve learned to make the most of it–make it a home, our home. So the kids pick plants to grow, jump into leaf piles, and sled down the backyard.
9) Enjoy the view: Despite all the sweat and tears this yard has produced, it’s actually quite nice when you look out at it from the deck. Hawks swoop down and hang out here. We back into a wooded lot with a creek that runs through it. It’s lush and green in the spring and summer. The fall provides the bright colors I love so much. When it snows, the white expanse is breathtaking. When all the work is done, it’s worth it to walk upstairs and look out, and enjoy the view.