In The Kingdom

Today I began planting my Victory Garden. Am I celebrating survival or sacrificing for the battles ahead? I don’t know, but the elasticity of language makes me laugh. Cancer blogs, replete with war metaphors, have enlisted me in the fray of words. My favorite among the Fighting Myelomas is armamentarium. Twice, I’ve heard doctors use it in connection with drugs to treat our cancer. With each mention I envisioned a squad of nurses lobbing salvos of chemo at the advancing plasma cells. But I digress…back to the garden.

A wildflower plot on the lawn
A wildflower plot on the lawn

I started with a row of potatoes, building a raised bed in soil crawling with earthworms. Next to that, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini complete the edible portion of my gardens. I’m also planting perennials in front of the rhododendrons, under which I fed the birds all winter. Elsewhere, I sowed wildflowers among an eighth of an acre of plots. Finally, there’s an almond shaped island in the center of our circular driveway. In the past, it’s gone untended. This year I’ve prepped the soil, sown more wildflowers and will decorate its pointed end with multi-colored annuals. This space is for a friend and fellow blogger who cannot have a garden where she lives.

My love for nature took root in the beautiful preserve of a private country club. Later, I would consummate that love with six years of living in Yosemite National Park and a two-year immigration to New Zealand. But it was really that golf course where I was forever smitten. There, amid a forest of soaring cypress trees and graceful pines, I lived an enchanted life during my impressionable teenage years.

The almond plot in the driveway
The almond plot in the driveway

I am the fourth child of a working class family. The only club I belonged to was the Boy’s Club. Yet, I was able to infiltrate the exclusive confines of the Cal Club as a caddy. At the same time that I flirted with competitive golf, an even stronger attraction to nature stole my heart. The course’s designer was from the classical school. He let the terrain dictate the layout, defining the corridors of play with what naturally presented itself. Very little was contrived and even that harmonized with what was left untouched.

In that same environment, I also learned valuable lessons in social consciousness. That tale is best left for another day. For the better part of a decade, though, I enjoyed an insider’s view of life’s ironies when art, sport, and privilege clash. I’m not certain what any of this has to do with myeloma, other than to mention in passing that I’ve started to play golf again.

Maple leaf dripping with spring rain
Maple leaf dripping with spring rain

Since I returned to work a month ago, I’ve taken to spending my lunch hours at a nearby golf course. There, I hit balls on the driving range, tempering an imperfect swing with the heat of repetition. Like another myeloma warrior whose passion for running marathons contends with his cancer treatments, I am determined to celebrate my recovery with activity.

In addition to being a good walk in beautiful surroundings, the game of golf has a mystical allure. Dramatic competitions and legends as inspiring as the origin of marathon running dot its history.

Golf is also good therapy for an upper body weakened by last year’s cancer treatments. Some days I even head out to the course after work to play a few holes in the lengthening twilight of northern Oregon. For now, this display of energy is probably a better barometer of my health than all the assays and blood counts filling my hard drive with confusing numbers.

Flowerbed awaiting perennials
Flowerbed awaiting perennials

Swinging a golf club puts demands on my still creaky flexibility. Currently, I’m a rusty gate and movement is oil. The intricate motion of a golf swing resembles a flowing yoga posture. Both unkink our body’s tendency to tighten from non-use. They also stimulate the fundamental urge toward a perfection that exists before you ever begin and about which you must be detached in order to experience it.

Gardening, meanwhile, is free of such riddles. It reminds me that we are all of the earth and to it we shall all return. Through these activities I revisit the ecstasy of childhood. There, I ruled in the kingdom of my imagination, the one realm where all our battles end in victory.

4 thoughts on “In The Kingdom

  1. Hello there! My husband is going to be very pleased to hear he is not the only myeloma-golfer in the world! He aims to get out there 5 times a week and I am convinced it has been the root of his recovery from post-chemo debility. I will print this post for him to read – he isn’t computer literate. Like you, he is from a working-class family, but here in Scotland the sport seems to attract people from all walks of life, with clubs for “ordinary” people as well as the moguls!


  2. I love the completion of this circle. If I remember right, you gave up golf even before your cancer treatment, so that you could devote more time to writing about a different heartache. With the return to golf I feel you embracing, or re-embracing, something very life-affirming. Love the pics.


  3. I have never heard “armamentarium,” but I like it; I’ll run it up the flagpole at the infusatorium. And “Fighting Myelomas?” Sounds like we ought to have a mascot. Maybe a muscular IV pole with a cape?

    Your garden is a victory in every sense. Gardening is somewhat mindless, and so frees the mind for all sorts of meditative opportunities. Different muscles from the golf swing, to be sure, but equally important.


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