How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Weed

Psychologists have a term—sublimation—for a process whereby certain negative urges are converted into positive behavior.

I’ve been feeling the need to sublimate.

You see, I’m feeling a lot of intense energy lately, much of it negative and a reaction to the daily news. I read what is going on in my country and the world and I get angry or scared, and frustrated.

For my own sake and for the sake of those around me, I need a way to release that stress.

I need a way to sublimate that energy.

Weeding is the answer. It has taken on new meaning for me this summer.

It’s always been an endless activity here, where the crabgrass and clover run free, amid pavers and garden beds.

I’ve always dreaded it a little, seen it as necessary evil, a fact of gardening life to just be dealt with.

Then I saw this strange little cartoon.

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I really did try to find info about this for purposes of attribution. Nothing.

At first I found it disturbing and peculiar but now, every time I kneel down to weed, it inspires me.

When I weed now, I redirect my negative energy and think about the ripping off of heads and pulling out of spines.

I know this doesn’t sounds very “loving hands at home.” It may shock you.

But I’m not advocating actual, literal violence.

And I’m not fantasizing about large-scale head ripping. I’m not imagining pulling just any spines. Just a few specific spines.

It doesn’t work for everyone–some of the people who frustrate me a great deal are immune because they are, seemingly, spineless . . .

So I focus on the others. One in particular.

It’s oddly cathartic, this directing of negative energy to the task at hand. Where I once flinched at the sight of crabgrass, now I eagerly approach it—it has the best long roots.

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If I work too quickly, the roots break and the weed comes back. Sublimation has made me a better, more careful weeder—I want that whole spine.

I finish a weeding session calmer than when I started. AND my patio looks better than it ever has.

So here is my advice to you:

Don’t hate—sublimate.

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So soon . . . autumn

Imagine my surprise when, last week, on August 15, I saw this.

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Embers where there will be flames of color soon

The signs of autumn approaching are creeping in everywhere.

Apple boxes are appearing in orchards, with harvest beginning.

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Apples are even falling from some trees.

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The reeds in the bay start to grow brown, from the bottom up, as do corn stalks.

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What’s more fun about the photos of the bay, are the herons. We see them all summer but they’re solitary birds so it was exciting to see four at one time.

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They nest very near.

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The geraniums, bottom right, are on our seawall.

Late summer on the lake . . . it’s getting quieter already.

Are you seeing signs of autumn? Or maybe spring?!

Summer is a delicate balance

IMG_0239Remember when you were a little kid, when summer was unalloyed gold, just hours and days and weeks of playing and lazing about?

And then, eventually you had to get a summer job, but there was still plenty of time to ride bikes and do big splashy cannonballs into the water?

But then you grew up and bought a house, with a big yard. You became an adult. It seemed like such a good idea at the time . . .

At that point, summers changed irrevocably.

Now, summer is the best time, in this region where winters are long and fine days may be few, to do outside chores and upkeep.

We have been working like dogs!

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We have been sanding the deck and the steps and all the other outside wood, sanding it and filling cracks and repainting. We need to seal the cedar siding on the house and paint the trim and deal with the gardens and so many other tasks that can really only be done in the summer months.

But summer is also the best time to enjoy our lovely lakeside location, in the beautiful region where we live.

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It’s the prime time to bask in rare perfect days.

So, we work for the delicate balance that is summer.

We clean the house and plan meals and enjoy time with family and with friends but we balance that with time for just us two, alone, where we find ease and contentment.

We balance the time our cats spend outside, on the roof, in the gardens, lurking in the bushes, with our annual trips to the vet with each of them.

We turn our attention to the details of our surroundings, how the color of that purple iris is nothing like the color of this one.

And wonder whether frogs are like snowflakes, every one unique.

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And the first buds of the first flowers, ever, on the climbing hydrangea.

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We have flowers on the climbing hydrangea!  And they said it couldn’t be done . . .

But we also look to the wider view, the sky that seems bluer in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain than anywhere else ever. And the dancing white sails of boats, finally set free from winter.

We balance trips to the local ice cream shop, for Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie and Chocolate Moosetrack ice cream, with brisk walks and weeding and more sanding and painting. It is, after all, bikini season (bwahahahaha!) and the best time to be outside, moving one’s muscles.

Summer is the only time, in my purveyor-of-vintage-linens persona, when I can take decent photos of larger vintage items, like blankets and big tablecloths, so I balance ironing and picture taking on sunny days with making new listings and other Etsyfying on days of gray.

Through it all, we kind of lose the idea of a lazy, hazy summer. We’re never bored.

Summer can be hard work. It can be physically exhausting. It can feel stressful, trying to fit everything in.

We balance all that with strict rules about quitting time. We meet at the fire pit, out by the lake, at 5. I might do some hand sewing but no other work is allowed.

We put our feet up. We chat. We plan the heavy lifting for the next day, we have a cocktail, we listen to the foolish kingfishers chatter, and watch the cats snack on the catnip plants.

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And these really quiet moments are all the sweeter because our bodies are tired and hands are sore.

There will be time to be lazy and hazy during the winter . . .

It’s summer now.

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The Big Questions

Nothing like an early walk on an exquisite spring morning to generate the big questions in life . . .

Why can’t I pick trilliums? It was illegal when I was a child; is it still?

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Was that deer flirting with me? Was she following me? Was she as interested in me as I was in her? Why is her tail white? Why can’t my iPhone camera keep up?

How much does a sailboat like that cost?!

Who will live in Mr. C’s little place, now that he’s gone? Will they grow tomatoes, too?

Why does my cat sit placidly and purr when we stick a big needle under his skin and deliver fluids and then bite me, hard, when I clip his toenails?

And a related question: Why can’t I drink alcohol while on antibiotics?

Where does that lilac smell come from? How can it be so poignant and nostalgic and moving?

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Which chore do I tackle when I get home? Which piece of wood do I sand and/or paint today? Which tomorrow? The next day? Can I just keep walking . . . and avoid the chores?

Why do I look so tubby in my silhouette?

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And a related question: Which kind of ice cream shall I choose today?

Why does 71 sound so old and seem so young? I’ll ask my husband—he’s reaching that birthday today . . .

Where does the time go? Are we using it to full advantage?

How can I fit it all in, everything I want to do on this perfect day, and still have time to acknowledge and honor a perfect day?

Can I do this all again, tomorrow? Please?

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Lessons from My Garden

 

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I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

Home Ick

I was ironing from my stash of vintage linens recently and came across an apron that set off a wave of memories for me.

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The fabric is vintage 1960s, sort of cool and retro. The sewing is novice—the waist band is applied awkwardly, so the uneven stitching creates puckers and wrinkles. The colors—the turquoise ties that match nothing in the main fabric—would appeal to a young girl.

I’d bet a lot of simolians that the apron was a project from a long ago Home Ec class.  

I was a young girl, a novice at sewing in the 1960s, too . . . I took classes in this thing Americans called Home Economics. 

It must’ve been the late 1960s and I was probably in 7th or 8th grade. The boys took “Shop” and used woodworking tools and learned about car engines, while the girls took Home Ec and learned about cooking and sewing. 

For a person who now loves sewing and even quite likes baking, I hated Home Ec. Even then, as a 12- or 13-year-old, I thought of it as Home Ick.

I have these clear memories of the teacher showing us how to butter bread. She stressed that we needed to spread the butter or mayonnaise or peanut butter right up to the edges of the bread, very carefully right up to the edges, so that the bread would stay moist . . . for our husbands and children.

She told us to take two slices of bread out of the package and open the slices like pages of a book so, when we put them back together, with filling, they would fit and match perfectly . . . for our husbands and children.

She taught us that it was of utmost importance, when measuring liquids, to squat down and look at liquid in the measuring cup at eye level, so we would get the precise amount and our cookies would turn out perfect . . . for our husbands and children.

Ai yi yi.

The sewing lessons were just as lame, to my 12-year-old sensibilities. We sewed one seam up a length of cloth to make a tube, stuffed it full of batting, and tied the two ends closed with cord and called it a bolster pillow. Really?

We also did class presentations on makeup and I remember a classmate intoning that we shouldn’t use eyeliner because it was passé. I was impressed that she could the word “passé” in a sentence but that whole thing about eyeliner . . . ?

I like to think I was ahead of my time, a mini-feminist in the making. Maybe the attitudes of the late 1960s and 1970s were influencing me, even in the backwoods of upstate New York, but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as ridiculous. 

Maybe it was because my mother and father both worked and I had long made my own sandwiches . . . but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as really, really ridiculous.

Maybe it was because what we were being taught was SO basic, not to mention sexist, and I knew the boys were learning skills of value—changing the oil on a car, making book ends with power tools—and no one was ever suggesting that they do it just so, for their wives and children.

Home Ec died a few years later at my school. I believe it has since been reincarnated, in different forms, in some schools. Boys can learn to cook and girls can take Shop, or not, as electives. Maybe they’re also teaching budgeting and organizational skills, and useful life skills, beyond how to butter bread and disdain eyeliner.

Thinking about my own Home Ec experience has me wondering—was it just that my experience was a lame one? Did other teachers, in other schools, provide a better, fuller range of skills? The person who stitched the vintage apron certainly learned to sew more than a bolster pillow! 

Was Home Ec just a thing in the United States? Did/do schools in other countries use valuable school hours teaching such things?

Do tell—what experience did you have with Home Ick?

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