Upturning Soil

Salvage as much as you can and get rid of as much as possible.

There’s a saying that goes, “Always leave a place better than you found it.” I realized that for that past year, I’d done just the opposite. Living in the attic-esque upstairs portion of a peach colored 114 year old house, I did for the interior what I could, but never was able to keep it very kempt. Last summer I purchased and potted as many houseplants as I could afford. I regularly attended garage sales in hopes that the treasures I found would help me better organize my junk.

I’ve inherited and snipped cuttings of more plants since then. I have been forced into receiving hand-me-downs in the forms of furniture and rugs, so I now have copious amounts of such items. I’ve bargained and traded with half the people in town (well, maybe that’s an exaggeration). Anyhow, for a moment I believed it was impossible to turn such a disorganized, cluttered living space into something semi-permanently inhabitable. But the coming of June 1st has given me hope– ever since I found a job at the garden store, the plant spirits have conjured up a garden of inspiration in my mind and have made it clear to me that I must not leave this place dingy and haunted as it once was.

It began as I was walking up my steps last week, when my downstairs neighbor called out to me. I stepped onto the roof to more easily communicate with her, and our neighbor to the right called to me, “Are you trying to kill yourself?” I had a rooftop laughing session while my two neighbors laughed along with me on ground level. After I stepped inside, she came to my door with a jar of lilacs and a single poppy from the back yard. That night, I took my rose tile table out to my entrance and placed my potted Creeping Jenny vine there, anticipating Jenny would creep upwards along the house. I twisted my Tibetan prayer flags around the deck railing. I repurposed some large containers into planters and replanted succulents which were growing out of their original smaller jars.

Today, as the sun shone its rays heavily upon our block and I made my way around to the front entry of the house, I found my neighbor in a determined state of moving the 500 lb bathtub underneath the steps of the abandoned house next door. We’d been discussing turning this into an herb garden, or some sort of flower garden. This determination was contagious and caught onto me also. We were so determined that we somehow managed to summon 4 strong construction men to help us within fifteen minutes by the sheer power of our minds.  The six of us were finally able to move it. In those fifteen minutes of waiting, I also found a fence, some stepping stones, and part of a railing I thought we could use as ornaments to the new garden.


Soon, one bathtub garden became two as I arranged the stones and bricks into a half circle around  the other side of the front house. I tilled the earth with the 100 year old hoe we had available (until I broke it, but just in time). My feet were bare for half of it, soaking in the fertile earth, giving me energy.  I pulled the roots of weeds with my bare hands and revealed earth fully. Just the act of doing this made me high with sun and earth energies. I was ecstatic and proud of my work, as though I’d already planted various beautiful flowers in this area with bountiful results.

I can envision it, though. Perhaps this goes against the renter’s agreement… but you have to do what you can to make each day more beautiful and full of color instead of living in a colorless, careful world. My soul is content for the first time in the entire year of living here… And it’s all because of the flowers. They’ve completely resurrected my creativity and have eased my paranoias. I thank the flowers and this ancient house for giving me such an opportunity. Gardening has changed my mind about moving anywhere else for now, because I’ve always strived to feel settled where I’m at before I enter an unsettled place. Though I have no plans for how this is going to work out, I can trust the process.

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