I’m on spring break, and the weather must have gotten the memo: it’s supposed to be in the 70s all week. Bliss. If you need me, I’ll be skipping through fields of wildflowers. Or something.

This weekend, I welcomed the break by cleaning house, going grocery shopping, and cooking a bunch of food. (At first I thought, good, I’ll have leftovers for lunches this week, and then I remembered–I’m on break! I’m on break!)

On Sunday, I also worked in the yard for the first time this year. (For the first time, actually, in an embarrassingly long time.) I tackled weeds in the front yard and prepped my garden spot in the back. Last summer, the garden was home to some herbs and a couple pepper plants I had originally felt optimistic about. Then, I got mono last June and spent July in San Francisco, and we had the hottest summer we’ve had since we moved here, and that was all she wrote for the garden.

I eventually just let the weeds have the whole thing. It was so pathetic, those dead plants. I couldn’t bring myself to spend three hours cleaning up a dead garden, so I handled the situation the best way I could figure: I ignored it. Stopped going in the backyard altogether. And you know what? I don’t regret it.

This year, our winter has been so mild and we’re supposed to have a really long spring, so I’m feeling optimistic. I get this way every spring. The dogwoods start blooming and I suddenly become convinced that this is my year! The garden will grow! It will be perfect!

So yesterday I spent the better part of the afternoon outside, getting my hands dirty. It felt good, to pull those weeds. There’s something very soothing–psychologically, spiritually–about pulling weeds. Cleaning up a patch of earth that holds so much possibility. Preparing for something new, something entirely new.

Last year this time I was swamped–just drowning in work and the depression of a long, cold winter. Last spring, I was limping toward spring break. I felt stuck and sad and overwhelmed. This year, I arguably have more genuine reasons to feel stressed and upset, but I’m finding myself more centered and more whole. More appreciative of the little things. I think, in a way, it’s cancer–that diagnosis puts things into perspective very quickly, and you start to realize there are a great many things in life not worth caring about.

Pulling the weeds out of the garden felt like clearing away all of last year, or at least the first half of it. The stress and anxiety and workaholism and lack of vision and all the things I had to neglect. I tore at the weeds, pulling them up, roots and all. Underneath it all was dark, rich soil, and an abundance of earthworms. I always feel happy to find earthworms, and I make sure to gently replace them in the soil, mentally thanking them for the good they do my garden. Somehow the sage was still alive, as was the oregano, and a happy little clump of chives. The plants felt a little miraculous. What little survivors they must be.

Throughout the process, I felt such a weight lifting from me. The earth felt soft beneath my knees. The air was cool, but the sun was warm against my back. I thought how wonderful gardening was, how good for the soul.

And then my back started to ache.

I looked over the garden and realized I still had more than half to go.

That’s a lot of weeds.

I thought at that point I’d gotten enough psychological benefit from gardening. But I didn’t let myself quit. I weeded the rest of the garden, wishing for a little less psychological/spiritual benefit, a little less enlightenment. (Or maybe just a better back.)

In time, it was all finished, and some lettuce was planted. I hobbled inside and cleaned up, afraid of what my back might do to repay me for all that soul-benefitting work I’d just done.

Well, at least I’ve got the whole week to recover…

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