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2005-04-10 10:09 PM
we’re not worthy of the suburbs
Our yard is a disaster. If it weren’t for the valiant efforts of my husband, I feel certain we would be voted off the Island of Tidy Lawns. I think it’s just not who we are. Our last house was in the city, and it had a postage-stamp-sized lawn in front and a blanket of English ivy in the back. Now we are in the suburbs, and I think we must seem like the bookish neighbors who are oblivious to the external world. We should be so lucky—probably we just seem lazy.
Anyway, the yard is just dreadful, and probably the worst part is that, aside from an occasional cringe when I look objectively at the tangle of weeds and muddy patches, I just don’t care. I feel that I should, but I really don’t. When it comes to Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences, I have several in spades, but the new one? The naturalist intelligence? Not. at. all.
We haven’t been able to grow grass in much of our shady, hilly, north-facing front yard. Instead we have these trees with roots that slither demonically all over the place. The front walkway is lined with gnarled and shriveled bushes, like surly little Ents. Apparently they needed some level of attention greater than zero. Wusses. The spiky-leafed bush is faring a little better, but it just screams “low maintenance plants for the half-assed gardener.” Like many folks around here, we have this lovely bush out back that blooms yellow every spring, but it’s never been trimmed, so there are these tall stalks that shoot up idiotically from the top.
Our church is a very fresh-flowers kind of place. I routinely walk into my office on Sunday morning to a beautiful flower arrangement waiting for me on my coffee table. Our flower guild is amazing. I am in awe of gardeners and flower-arrangers. I myself appreciate plants as objects of contemplation; when it comes to maintaining them, I have no interest, and even when I cultivate the interest and make a sincere effort, I apparently have no aptitude.
My senior pastor gave me a sweet little begonia for Easter, and, inspired by the metaphor of new life, I swore this time would be different. I would take care of it, I would, I would! It was dead within the week. I put the carcass in my office closet, hiding my shame from the world, even as it confronts me every afternoon as I search for a granola bar. (In case she ever reads this, sorry, Rev. B.)
I got asked recently how I managed to juggle a job, family, blog, life, and whatever else. Well, I guess this is part of the answer—everybody around here seems to be gardening but me. This frees up some time, but I also feel like I’m missing something. Gardening feels like something women are supposed to enjoy, or at least to do, whether they enjoy it or not, like wear makeup and cook. I’ve never worn much makeup, but I stopped completely when C was born, especially lipstick. I was kissing her so much, what was the point? And my husband is a great cook. He cooks, I clean, and we like it that way, most of the time.
So where and how do I cultivate beauty in my life? I love knitting up a simple scarf with sumptuous yarn. I think there’s something elegant about an orderly kitchen with uncluttered counters wiped clean. (Uncluttered being a relative term in a kitchen lacking adequate storage.) I like throws. And candles. And naps. Naps are works of art—getting the temperature right, the lighting in the room. I sing to myself much of the time. I make up lyrics sometimes. Occasionally I pick up the guitar. I like poring through our CD collection to come up with the right music for a given activity. Mostly I write.
How do you cultivate beauty?
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