Digging in during tough times

It’s been a tough few months. Even as the number of gray days is dwindling, and flowers are exploding in color, the last few weeks have taken a lot of energy to get through. Friends getting COVID, spikes in reported cases, forest fires in Colorado and New Mexico, our national grief at the continuous acts of gun violence, and facing some unknown health thingies, have been a distraction from my goals. Truthfully, with all that’s happening here and abroad, my public discussion about getting fit has felt trivial particularly with little kids being blown to bits in elementary schools.

The last month or so has felt like a slog. I haven’t been particularly diligent with healthy eating, I haven’t walked a path yet, though I have walked more than usual which wasn’t much, to begin with. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel stronger than others; more determined. Some days, not so much.

There have been some successes. I have made swimming a priority. My swim partner and I try to make the pool three times a week. Sometimes I cancel because of a work schedule or, at least once, I forgot – a malady that many of us appear to be experiencing these days and, I suspect, mostly a result of the constant stress of an ever-changing pandemic. Pool time generally means at least 45 minutes of constant paddling. I view it as cardio and muscle work, and I’ve noticed changes in my upper arms or, as I like to say: the flags don’t wave quite as low. So there’s that. And, though I don’t make a habit of a weigh-in, I haven’t gained a pound.

Years ago, exercise was woven into the fabric of the day-to-day. In southwest England, having no other means of transportation, I walked everywhere; to and from town, a walk of just over a mile, and hour-plus cliff walks high above the Atlantic through sheep pastures and small farms. (If you’ve ever watched Masterpiece Theatre’s Poldark, the cliffs shown in the opening scenes are familiar territory.) Living for a time in the foothills of the Sierras, meant splitting my timber rounds for heat and climbing a hill behind my cabin to check the weir that fed the gravity water system. For about three years in Santa Cruz, I didn’t own a car and biked everywhere. Of course, I was much younger and the internet wasn’t as pervasive. However, carving out time for a trip to the gym has always been a challenge, as my recent swimming patterns have shown.

All of which brings me to gardening.

My new living accommodation finds me with four wood bordered plots behind a deer fence, each filled with rich soil that has been carefully tended and planted by previous tenants. The task of replanting them falls to me now and I aim not to disappoint.

Recently, I completed the overdue task of weeding the 4 x 10 strawberry patch and applying new mulch. When I was done, my aching back was mixed with the supreme satisfaction of seeing the plants’ growth and the appearance of baby berries. Experiencing dirt-driven endorphins that, hopefully, will result in strawberry jam and tarts, fresh squash, broccoli and onions, and flowers is the focus of my physical activity for the next few months. The thrice weekly pool trips will continue, and soon, a celebratory hike.

In the meantime, I feel excited and privileged to discover what so many islanders already know – the joy and well-being of putting hands in the soil and communing with the sacred — nourishment for the weary soul; especially important these days.

Thanks to those who continue to ask me how I’m doing. It means so much. Enjoy the days ahead, be kind to each other, and please ask me how my garden grows.

Happy Solstice!