Slow Gardening

My streaks are starting to become hard and wearying. I am struggling with the yoga and I am struggling with what to write each week on the blog. 

The yoga is hard because of the time commitment and also because a lot of the practices are physically hard to do, and continue to be hard to do even after more than 60 days of consistently doing them.

I did the Strength practice the other day and thought: When will this ever get easier?? I have to approach the Balance practice with a sense of humor because it is all but impossible, and if I don’t find a way to laugh, and go easy on myself, I will just quit. 

This blog is hard for other reasons. Mainly because, until lately, I’ve not been reading anything except for newspapers. I’ve also not been consistently doing my 1K a day word dump in Scrivener. I need to develop more consistency in those two things. I need to put the iPad away and read. 

 I’m deathly sick of Facebook but find myself looking at it anyway. I’m actively resisting any urge to engage with anything or anybody. I’ve even stopped happy birthday-ing people. I want to quit it and if I didn’t have the studio I would in a heartbeat. I never leave Facebook feeling informed or uplifted. 

I’ve been feeling this really strong pull toward detachment and solitude. I keep flashing back on my yearly, sometimes more than yearly, retreats at Springwater, how I’d come home from them centered and aligned and inspired. It’s been too long. I almost have a fear of doing that now, not that I have the time for it. And I don’t know why.

I’ve been having escapist fantasies of doing yoga on the beach during my hour of practice each day, imagining lifting up into crescent lunge, opening my arms out wide, gathering it all in… 

In reality, yoga in the sand is crappy and messy and my form falls apart, but if I could find a flat stable piece of ground, that would be so nice, and then afterward, to sit and meditate there? Ahhhh….

My list of household things to do is long and my desire to do any of it is short. I just want to sit and read and write and then read again. The other day we moved the hammock stand into place in the side yard but I haven’t hung the hammock on it yet. I have some idea in my mind that I have to deserve my hammock time. That I have to fall into the hammock in a heap of exhaustion either from doing housework or yard work. There is some bug in my brain that says that lying around is self-indulgent and must be earned. 

The other day I was doing a little gardening, my first spate of gardening of the year.

I warmed up by just walking the yard, taking the measure of the season, noticing how things had survived the winter, or not.  The thing G wanted me to do was plant some marigolds in a planter in the back, but first there was some cleaning and weeding to be done. I took my weeder bucket and trake and started carefully cleaning out dead leaves and weeds, sweeping the flagstones, standing back and admiring things. I swept under the little Buddha statue and then took one of the marigolds, planted it in a little blue ceramic pot, and placed it in front of the statue, kind of like an offering. 

I am not a Buddhist. I am not a person who bows to statues. But I think what these little garden Buddhas represent, with their closed eyes and their meditative stillness is the me who wants to do that, and be like that. I want to be the one who goes into the yard to observe, and appreciate, and weed, and sweep, and call that “gardening.” Or “meditating.”

G is getting the garden done.

G opening the hot tub for the season

She is making great strides with planting and mulching and digging and doing. Whereas I take a different approach. I am more concerned with doing it in a way that slows me down, makes me pay attention to the plant I am weeding around in this moment, watching as it becomes visible as a result of my making a  weedless space around it. I prefer to garden slowly. I don’t care how long it takes. I like taking my time. 

Not a lot will get done at this pace, though. By the time I’m through, the leaves will need to be raked and the hammock again, stored for the winter. 

A Real Find

Yesterday was a cold damp day. I’d been reading Where the Crawdads Sing and thinking about abandonment. 

I wasn’t abandoned like Kya, the protagonist in that book, but I was abandoned psychologically. My mother was checked out, and always in some feud with her own family: her mother, her twin sister, her brothers. I didn’t know any of them. Or their children, my cousins.

When my mother died in ’95, a lot of my cousins came to the funeral home. So did my uncles. So did my grandmother. So did my aunt. I had to introduce myself to all my cousins. I didn’t introduce myself to my uncles, but I hardly recognized them. We went to a local diner afterwards and they said, “We should keep in touch now that we’ve found each other again.”

We didn’t. 

I knew we wouldn’t. 

A few years later, when my grandmother died, nobody called me. 

A long time ago I moved up here to the wilds of northern PA to go to college, to start a new life, to find myself.

I was lost. I was alienated. I felt misunderstood and emotionally abandoned by my family.

 I started a little yoga community here. 

And now my old life is starting to find me. I don’t look for it, I don’t ask for it. It just walks in, rolls out a mat, does a few sun salutations and before it leaves it says, “My name is Greg Simkiss.” 

And I think to myself: “I used to have a crush on a kid in first grade  named Simkiss.” 

And I say this to the Simkiss that has just done sun salutations in my studio. This handsome boy in his 20s on his way to California to work on a pot farm. This boy who is going to sleep in his car after yoga and continue west in the morning.

 I say to him: I used to have a crush on a kid named Simkiss when I was in first grade. 

Turns out this is the son of my crush.

I let him sleep in the studio under yoga blankets, instead of in his cold car. 

I grew up in Levittown. I didn’t like it there. Called it “Leave-it-town.” My one goal as a teenager was to do just that. 

One day a few years after I opened my studio a woman came in to practice yoga and I noticed she said “wudder” not “water.” 

I said to her, “Where are you from?” She said, “Levittown.”

 I said, “Where in Levittown?” She said, “Cobalt Ridge.” 

Turns out I rode my bike past her house a million times.

A woman with the last name of Lackey has just started practicing yoga with me. My grandmother used to say my sister looked like a Lackey. 

I had no idea what that meant. I had no idea what a Lackey was or what one looked like. It was just something I heard a lot when I was a little. 

 I told this to the woman with the last name of Lackey who is doing yoga with me now. 

When I told her my mother’s maiden name, it sounded familiar she said, a name her husband’s family mentioned.  She’s going to ask him about it. 

The people who stumble upon this studio sometimes call my place “a find.” They like the vibe here, they say. They are surprised to find it up here in Nowheres-ville, a place they’ve come to vacation, or are passing through on their way to somewhere else.

 I came here to find myself so many years ago.  I came here to lose my inherited burden of alienation, and to create a new life. And now it seems like my past is trying to find me, connect me, sew me back into itself.

Just like Kya, in my youth I feared connection. I found comfort and cover in alienation. But then I opened my studio. I hung out my sign. I opened myself up to connection, and over the years it’s been happening. People walk in to practice sun salutations and end up moving and breathing me back to that life I abandoned so long ago, and to show me I was connected all along.

Defending The Beauty Of My Kitchen

kitchen window

 

I can’t tell you how much I’m still thrilled with the new kitchen. I’m noticing how the light is changing in there as the season changes day by day. I fall in love  with this new space every day.

Ever since the renovation I have been especially sensitive to clutter and mess. I no longer let dishes pile up. I keep everything in its designated place. I polish the stainless.

I’m zealously defending its beauty.

This concept of “defending beauty” is one I recently heard about on a Gretchen Rubin podcast. It’s the idea that once you’ve created a little piece of beauty in your home, you work to defend it. And in this act of defending  beauty, I seem to be  defending a place of beauty in myself, too.

It could even turn out to be a big part of who I am, or a part of my life’s work: To become a defender of beauty.

When people “Adopt a Highway” for instance, they defend a little piece of public thoroughfare. When Lady Bird Johnson planted wildflowers on median strips, she was defending the beauty of the highway.

There’s a spur of road behind our house that tends to get littered. I notice if I keep the litter picked up, it doesn’t accumulate as fast; but if I don’t pick it up, it gets worse daily. If people sense that someone cares for something, defends its beauty, even only on a subconscious level, they seem to have a different attitude toward it.

I have other little places in my house whose beauty I defend. They kind of function like shrines to different parts of my self. My space chair, for instance, is where I write and read.

space chair

I also have this  bedside table where I pen notes to people.

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When I was a kid I had a battalion of brown plastic Mary statutes I won in school for answering catechism questions.

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I had about 30 of these things and I’d arrange them in various formations on the top of my dresser. It gave me a lot of pleasure to do this.  Nothing else was allowed to be on that dresser top. Maybe it  was a shrine to my dedication, or my effort.

As I defend the beauty of my new kitchen, I feel like I’m am defending the space  inside me that loves food, and food prep, and just time spent chopping and sautéing and tasting and spicing.

Time spent nourishing and feeling nourished. Time spent doing what I love.

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