The Indifferent Gardener

The Indifferent Gardener
Spanky among the petunias.

I have a blood cancer, multiple myeloma. It’s not an accident. It’s not bad luck. It’s just life. I adapt to the complications. My skin mottles. Smears of color come and go and return. I admire the abstract tattoos on my hands and forearms. Numbed by drugs and disease and age, my brain and body wander. I am sometimes awkward on my feet. I prefer solitude. My thoughts disdain order. I retreat to the garden for balance, where I find my cat, Spanky, curled in the greenery. And, like my cat, I am curiously happy.

Surviving cancer, surviving Covid, its variants, and surviving the Heat Dome, hell, surviving survivor’s guilt … it’s a lot of work being a human being. To relax, my wife and I putter in the garden. Flowers for me and vegetables for her.

The Indifferent Gardener
Veggies and wildflowers before the heat dome of June.

Morning and evening, I observe a plot of wildflowers. It hums with the activity of bees reaping gold for their hive. Each year I grow a mix of Northwest varieties from seed. This season’s bounty is muted. The egregious heat we experienced in June was as dangerous a weather phenomenon as any winter storm I’ve known. Four days of temperatures above 110 degrees stifled growth. Only now, six weeks later, are the varieties beginning to rebound. California Poppy, Sweet William, Cosmos, and Shasta Daisies brighten the yard. They attract bugs for this brief but never ending cycle of ecological symbiosis.

The Indifferent Gardener
The potted plant deck built by our son.

In late winter, our son constructed raised beds for the vegetables and a planter deck for potted flowers. We have already harvested lettuces, beans, an eggplant and several tomatoes. The flowers, however, are well into their second iteration as I adapt the idea to the catastrophe of hot weather.

My cat Spanky accompanies me on the daily rounds to these “new” friends. He ambles on the periphery of my nurturing visits. I finger test the soil in the multi-colored pots. Moisture? Yes, time to water. I pinch wilted flowers and assess the spacing. The marigolds disappointed me. Too small and perhaps crowded among the thriving petunias. I make mental notes to replace them with pansies to flush out more color.

The Indifferent Gardener
Spanky’s nap spot in the undergrowth of the wildflowers.

Frankly, the weather overwhelmed me. I screwed up and some pots died completely. I grieved over my mistakes. I re-planted a few but intend to replenish others in August, when the nights are longer and cooler. I tug at weeds and shake dirt from their roots. I retrieve the watering can and begin wetting down the plants. Spanky, the indifferent gardener, squints inscrutably. He tires of my fussing and slips away among the tall wildflowers for a nap.

A song: I Recall You When I Sing

 


19 thoughts on “The Indifferent Gardener

  1. I read your post to my wife every time you publish.  Thanks for writing as we really enjoy! I farm in TN and also have MM.  The article on raised beds and flowers hit home.  I built 20 and my wife does flowers and vegetables.  Keep plugging and stay well. Roger ivy

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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    1. Thanks for commenting Roger. It makes me happy to know you share my posts with your wife. I hope it helps with your understanding that others are living with MM. Enjoy your farm and the gardening!

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  2. I try to take joy in living, life is so short! Reach out and love those around you, I haven’t been good at that. My wife Janice passed from MM on 10/11/20. It has been quite the grief journey. Our loved ones simply cannot be around long enough, I miss my dear Jan more then words can describe.

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  3. I always love your posts. You have a beautiful way with words. My hubby was a writer also, but as the MM progressed he lost his ability to compose. I suppose it was a combination of the chemo and the pain meds. You seem to have escaped that fogging of the mind. Press on! I will look forward to many more lovely essays!

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    1. Hi Ann. Thanks for commenting. Believe me, I do experience brain fog. It’s one of the more difficult things to explain to others. Though, I’m sure you understand.

      Cancer fatigue is as emotional as it is physical. The weakness is accompanied by an emptiness that finds me wandering and lost in both thought and place. My ability to compose is intermittent. 😵‍💫 But, I’m ok with the consequences. I’m grateful to be a long timer with MM.

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  4. Your garden is delightful, John. Good to hear that it survived the heat. Enjoyed the song, too, on this lazy summer morning. Stay cool, my friend. 😎

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      1. Everyone is healthy & doing well, in spite of a rough year. Helen graduated high school & is working at Tucker Road Animal Hospital. Lydia’s young marriage didn’t survive the lockdown but she finished school & is working in a spa in Vancouver. Ray was able to keep working at his computer job. Not being at Providence after 9 years was a big adjustment for me but my office has never been busier & I’m grateful for that. I keep in touch with a few patients & nurses but sure miss seeing everyone. Even vaccinated, I’m not sure how Providence can bring me back but who knows what the future will hold. ❤️

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  5. There are verses in your song, lines that remind me of John Prine, like, “It’s better than doing nothing I guess.”

    Thanks for another good read. Glad you are hanging in there, glad you have the garden, among all the other things you have,

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    1. Hey Gary. Thanks for the comments. I am a big fan of JP. What a loss that he died from Covid.

      Hope you and Ginger and those three boys are well.

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  6. Thank you for that lively song. Phil and Little John were real characters. Left our earth way too young. Your flowers look lovely as does the vegetable garden. I need to go on my bike, when it cools A bit, and come see it.

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  7. John, I love your writing and your songs! The peaceful, easy way you express yourself reminds me to breathe. I think my favorite part of your post is obviously your gardening (me too!) and especially Spanky! Spanky is your life coach. Relax and smell the Sweet William, then nap! Thank you, John.

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