Green Thumb Therapy

I’m not in charge of much.

I have a boss. My husband has a mind of his own. I have bills to pay and family obligations. The government doesn’t check in with me. I’m not the leader of any club or volunteer group.

Even the dogs, the cats and the ducks make demands. And, of course, the weather always does whatever it wants. So from a glass-half-empty point of view, my inner control freak doesn’t get much exercise…

But there’s one place where I call the shots–and that’s in my garden. Actually, who am I kidding? Mother Nature’s in charge. But I do have some influence. Especially when it comes to weeding. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to figure this out, but weeding the garden is extremely satisfying…

When work troubles follow me home

When my husband points out that my ‘80s wardrobe looks dated—and I need a haircut

When the cat threw up and the dog’s eating it

When I’m in a rotten mood for no apparent reason

When I need to be alone, but can’t just crawl into the closet and hide

It’s good to know the weeds are waiting.

For those of us who don’t get much time to journal or meditate or take long soothing baths, this must-do garden chore is just the ticket. At the same time that I’m making more room for plants I want to thrive (and composting less worthy greenery), I zero in on something useful. And Zen out on something that doesn’t tell me what to do.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There’s no shortage of tender, shallow-rooted shoots that pop up faster than a five-o’clock shadow. And by the time I get around to it, tackling the weeds is closer to wrestling gnarly underbrush than blissful plucking.

Sometimes, the volunteering vegetation mat is so thick, I have to dig down and skim off an inch of topsoil. This, on my knees, wearing holed gloves, grunting and groaning through the toughest yanking until muscles seize. Feet are filthy, even through socks. Fingernails are grimy and ragged. And on a good day, there’s a sunburn.

It’s certainly not glamorous. But those hard rows to hoe vent pent-up energy. And they clear my mind. No more endless loops of worries, arguments, misunderstandings and resentment.

When a garden patch is cleared to the point where I can see some soil among the plants again, I’ve made a bit of a difference. There’s a chance the peas will grow. And I’ve sent packing another load of noxious thoughts.

As long as I have a garden, this cleansing ritual will be mine—because, oh joy, oh bliss, there’s always more weeds! And if I ever turn out a garden that looks impressive enough for someone to admire, it’ll be thanks to hours and hours of green thumb therapy.

That and really good luck.

Julie Ann Luoma is happy to share quirky conclusions drawn from life’s little dramas.