How Does Your Garden Grow?

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I started my day with quite a “to do” list. You see, the last two afternoons were filled with unexpected yet compulsory appointments, and so everything got shifted on to today. I decided to start at the nursery, as I have needed to pick up ladybugs for over two weeks. Fruit is emerging on vines, and if I have any intention of feeding anyone but the bugs, well…let’s just say it had finally risen to the level of urgent. While there a pot for my sprouting avocado seed, cages for the tomato plants and even a blooming “topsy turvey” strawberry basket made their way into my little red wagon. (Please don’t ask me why I needed a wagon for the intended purchase of a Chinese take-out container of ladybugs. Thank you.)

Returning home with new goodies and an overcast morning, it made sense to get right to work, and so I did. Avocado planted, along with some herbs that were awaiting attention, and four installed tomato cages later, the sun was high in the sky and it was time for a break. (Note to hubby: the “topsy turvey” thing is a bit heavier than I realized so we’re going to have to figure that one out together. Before you roll your eyes, we’re feeding your son strawberries fresh from the garden…this is good!).

You have to understand, however, I’m not a garden girl. If it weren’t for a very diligent housekeeper even the solitary pothos would be long gone. In fact, I’m so bad at this that my gardener can’t keep half the stuff in my yard alive!

So this spring, as I watch all of this growing and sprouting around me, I have to ask what the heck is going on. My thoughts keep returning to a single theme: THE WILL TO LIVE.

I’ve been admonished for using war analogies before, but for me it works. Is it my internal understanding of cancer or the framework society has built? It hardly matters. Inside of me there are healthy cells and an active immune system battling deadly cancer cells. Both are fighting for their lives. It is sometimes painful to acknowledge that I have created the tenacious killers that so often manage to outsmart the smartest of doctors so as to outlive the liveliest of people, but it is true. Created them and nurtured them I have. It is, quite simply, microscopic cells fighting an epic battle to live.

When I was first diagnosed a friend immediately ordered a set of books for me. They were free, and authored by Richard Bloch, of H&R Block fame. Diagnosed with cancer in 1978 and given three months to live, he decided he wanted something different for himself. His books were amazing. Clear, simple, uplifting, positive, energizing and direct. Perhaps the most impactful thing I read is also written on his blog, blogcancer.org:

The biggest and the hardest single thing that you will be required to do in the entire battle is to make up your mind to really fight it. You must, on your own, make the commitment that you will do everything in your power to fight your disease. No exceptions. Nothing halfway. Nothing for the sake of ease or convenience. Everything! Nothing short of it. When you have done this, you have accomplished the most difficult thing you will have to accomplish throughout your entire treatment. And I don’t care how serious or how minor you are led to believe your cancer is.

In the book he goes on to give examples of what he means, such as people with lung cancer who continue to smoke. For me, much of what he writes is nothing short of a core truth. (As a side note, Richard Bloch died in 2004 of heart failure. You know what they say…we can call ourselves cured when we die of something else! Also, you can order or download the books from the link above.)

So I have taken up gardening…my newfound desire to nurture life, to tend to its growth and to bring healthy, organic foods to my family’s table emerges from an innate drive toward life. I’m not complaining about the ancillary benefits of gardening: exercise, vitamin D, unplugging, and stress reduction, there is a powerful and fundamental process at work, but this is about life.

L’chaim! To Life!

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7 responses »

  1. Gardening is such a splendid thing to do for so many reasons. I’m lucky mine contains a lot of tough perennials that bloom no matter what, because it has been neglected for a few seasons as I’ve crawled out of the fatigue ditch. I have hopes for this season. Tomorrow, I’ll be mowing the lawn…and glad I have the energy to do so. Here’s to lots of blooming for us all!

  2. Lori – I loved this post! I too returned from the nursery today with ladybugs as well as a whole carload of plants and other things that I don’t really need (a new variety of strawberry, lemongrass, chocolate mint!). While my mother has a green thumb, growing up I clearly did not, and was known as the one who killed philodendrons – you know, the houseplants you can’t kill. But something happened a few years ago – during my recovery, I moved into a house. With a small yard. And then I had this incredible unexplainable urge to garden. Not flowers (I pulled up all of the roses the previous owner had planted) but food – as you said, food that could bring life. I’ve now branched out to include some edible flowers, but nothing makes me smile like my broccoli! Sending lots of love to you.

  3. I love that you are into gardening. It’s wonderfully therapeutic. And ladybugs are one of my favorite living creatures. And thanks for alerting us to Richard Bloch’s books. I’m sure we can learn much from him. And how interesting that he died of something other than his cancer. Somehow that encourages me to keep on keeping on. xx

    • “Into gardening” may be generous…but one can learn, right? For now, I’ll be happy to get just a few tomatoes and strawberries!

      Richard Bloch’s books are wonderful…very quick reads and dead one accurate. One of them is written specifically for someone supporting a cancer patient, and my husband found it very helpful as well. I try to keep a few copies on hand in case I need pass them along to someone since cancer diagnoses usually come without warning. It only just occurred to me that none of them have ever been returned! I hope they’ve been paid forward….

    • I fondly remember my grandparent’s lilac hedge that seemed to block out the “world” while enveloping me in their delicious scent! I’m pretty sure I won’t have that kind of success in Southern California, but there’s only one way to be sure!

  4. After planting several tomato varieties and some lettuce ostensibly for our pet piggie, I’ve discovered the joy of nurturing and tending to plants. Twice-daily watering in the Texas heat, deadheading, and patrolling for pests has brought a peacefulness I never expected. And the exquisiteness of eating a warm cherry tomato straight off the vine? Priceless!

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