In my mid twenties I was diagnosed with ITP. ITP is a blood disorder where your antibodies become confused, so my antibodies started killing off my platelets making it nearly impossible for my blood to clot. The only answer short of removing my spleen was to take prednisone. The medication caused me to balloon from 130 pounds to 185 pounds in 18 months. I was constantly tired and the medicine had horrible effects on my mind. Everyday life became so overwhelming that I was at a loss of how to express my feelings. I didn’t know where to turn and even thought I might be losing my sanity. I started walking every afternoon just so I could get away from the ringing of phones and sounds of television and radio. I started out blocking out everything around me. Slowly I started to hear the birds singing and notice the butterflies fluttering through the air. They’d been singing and fluttering all along; I’d just never taken the time to notice them before. I bent down to pick a wildflower when a bee suddenly landed on it. A flood of tears started to stream down my face as memories of my Paw-Paw came flooding back. The release I’d so desperately needed had finally come. Mother Nature was right there with me and she’s never left my side. Suddenly everything became clear to me. The plants take care of the animals. The animals take care of the plants. Without one, we won’t have the other. The beauty of Mother Nature pushed me back into the world clear headed, strong and ready to take on the any obstacle.
Gardening has been great exercise for me and although I often wake up with sore muscles, bumps and bruises from my gardening too, it never stops me from getting back out there the next day. Those aches and pains are nothing compared to carrying around all the weight I gained while I was sick. Gardening provides the regular physical exercise that can prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis. I once heard a saying. “Gardening is a labor of love. Exercise is just plain labor.” Growing my own vegetables also provides nourishment to my body. They are one of the most natural foods available and contain different vitamins and minerals the body needs. What’s the best part to me? I know where my vegetables came from, that they were grown organically and that they are truly fresh.
My gardening experiences have opened my creative mind allowing me to design all kinds of garden spaces. For me, there’s a quiet place to watch the birds play in the bird bath and the butterflies feed on flower nectar. For Wyatt, there’s a nice little place filled with the sweet scent of honeysuckle where he can start a fire and watch the embers glow. And for my Paw-Paw, there’s a Pioneer Garden in remembrance of the hard work those before us put into the land. My garden spaces have provided me with a sanctuary for thought; given me new friends, both human and animal; and even encouraged those with a so-called black thumb to create their own gardens. Gardening connects me with nature and the rhythm of life. It slows me to garden time. A place where there’s always time to “stop and smell the flowers.”
Over 30 years have passed since the time I spent with my grandfather and the significance he put on our earth lives on in my mind, body and soul. I see so many analogies to life through the plants I tend - the way they respond to light and water (just like people who respond to love) and the way they face adversity just like people- through severe drought and lots of heat. Gardening saved my sanity when I needed it most - when I needed to see that life does go on, that although there is death there is also life, that although colors may fade they can also reappear even brighter, that although winter brings about the bleak and dreary.............spring is always around the corner waiting to bring new life......