“Garden Intervention” by Kate Collins

Kate Collins: I am a retired school district administrator who lives in Hampshire County. I live in a cottage in Laurel Park with a small dog who is the love of my life. I was once a high school English teacher, and I was once a journalist.

“Garden Intervention”

When I moved to my tiny house five years ago, I had a landscaper create a beautiful small garden space for me. It seemed the right size for me to manage despite some physical challenges. This year, in the summer of everyone’s discontent, it became too much for me. The weeds got ahead of me. Unreeling the hose to water the container plants was daunting, and holding a single pose long enough to dead-head an annual became too much. I had a visit from the landscaper who created the garden beds. I told him my space needed an intervention, and we made a plan to simplify. Six weeks passed, during which I felt more frustration than I’ve experienced in a long time. And I’ve taken myself to task for my lack of radical acceptance of my physical limitations. Partly, the frustration is loss. It’s hard to lose the things you once could do. I had imagined myself becoming a Candide sort of old person, cultivating my garden, even during a pandemic.  Maybe it’s not so much the loss as it is needing to rely on someone else who was taking weeks to get to my job. Dependence is frustrating. July passed and part of August, and Emma and I have enjoyed our morning walks with other Laurel Park neighbors of the two and four-legged varieties. The dogs greet one another with tails and noses, and the two-legged types find out who has ventured farther than River Valley Market for food. Some of us attend Zoom meetings and teach our kids. Last week, while walking with two of Emma’s favorite friends and their human, I found the moment right to mention my frustration with waiting for the landscaper. He suggested I call one or two people he knew who regularly cared for other Laurel Park gardens. He emailed me their contact information. This morning, I met the man who is going to mow, weed and simplify the containers to only those I can water by hand. There’s something about the times we’re in that makes me crave order. Knowing order will be brought to my garden next week feels more satisfying than it should. I wondered why it should. Yes, there’s satisfaction in knowing that with help, I can impose order again in the only place on Earth where I have even modest control. There’s the satisfaction that comes with being part of a community that has within it its own resources–the people who have been here longer and have solved a problem I need to solve now. I am grateful.