gardening and cancer

June 23, 2011


yes, i know.  it’s so beautiful in my little brooklyn backyard.  from the wet, muddy pit that it was about 22 years ago when i first moved in to the beautiful quirky yard filled with roses, basil and burgeoning tomatoes and cucumbers not to mention overgrown patches of irises – my backyard is our own little oasis.  when i was just out of treatment – 5 years ago this summer – i wasn’t up for much.  i remember walking down the street in park slope, brooklyn near my work, and seeing a beautiful flowering vine.  it wasn’t clematis…which are vines i have many of against the fences.  i bought it immediately and sometime in the next week, planted it near the foot of my climbing yellow roses.   i don’t remember much of that summer but i remember sitting on the back rocker just watching my garden and thinking that so few people took the time to sit in their garden.   late that fall, i finally looked up the vine that i planted and, much to my horror, found out that the red trumpet vine that i had purchased and planted was deemed to be one of the most invasive vines around…it would take over and strangle all else.  without a moment’s hesitation, i went to my yard, dug up the vine, and discarded it. 

last week, i took time out from a busy work schedule to delay heading into the office – i gave myself an hour in the cool morning to get down on my knees and really focus on weeding out a patch of the garden.  one by one i plucked out the usual offenders…the rain had made them easy to grab so that their roots came out – giving me hope that i was winning the weeding game.  then i looked over and stared.  there it was.  at the foot of the yellow climbing roses…the telltale green vine that said that my excavation 4.5 years earlier was a fool’s errand.  invasive vine.  it seemed the very definition of invasive.  it was still there.  and growing.  and probably spreading.  and i started crying.  in my own garden.  a cruel reminder that you never know that what you think has been taken out of  you isn’t still growing.  i hate cancer.   i’ve gone back into my garden … but it took a few days.  i hate cancer. 



can you feel it?

March 1, 2010


i knew if i just put one wintery-booted-foot ahead of the other that february would pass and yes, it’s march 1!  i know.  lots of blustery wind and rain ahead and probably a few more snowstorms given the retro-snowy winter new york city has seen this year.  but i know what i know.  that spring is coming.  enough said.

best laid plans of …

May 25, 2009


me and me…oh well.  whatever the creeping crud was that hit teenage daughter and husband caught up with me.  husband got the brunt of it…suffered with fever for 3 days then gallantly played his gig last night.  i have simply been an onslaught of dripping down the back of my throat and itchy ears.  i shouldn’t be surpised…hearing about so many people with variations on a theme. 

on the good side:  spent much of the past 2 days in my garden.  i’d put in a few cukes then feel dizzy and sit in the shade.  repeat repeat repeat.  basil, tomatoes; cukes; hot peppers.  most everything is planted and i acknowledge that i have too many vining plants.  i love the look of things spilling over the sides of containers.  sweet peas; ivy geranium; baby petunias, becopa, thyme and oregano.  that’s not to mention the many clematis vines all growing on trellises.  the climbing yellow roses are bursting with an almost obscene push.  the irises just pour scent through the back corner of my little brooklyn garden.  i added new coreopsis – last year’s didn’t survive and i adore coreopsis..those yellow flowers seem so cheery and add a good dose of yellow to my very blue and purple-laden garden. 

so no bbq.  no guests.  but some nice quiet time in my house and garden that i haven’t had in a while.  not such a bad thing.  now if the ringing in my ears would just stop….


new seasons

May 4, 2009


i never cared that much for spring..i still love the fall better but i now find my heart and hopes flutter at the start of spring. i think part of it is growing up.  as you get older and realize that you’re truly getting older and there’s no going back, the cliche of the ‘promise of spring’ becomes less cliche and more immediate.  i had my surgery in late november.  i felt fine on my birthday in mid-october (2005); found a lump the next week; diagnosed the following week; surgery in late-november and then started chemo in mid-january.  i know that there are some people who breeze through chemo.  i was not one of them.  it takes me months – oh, let’s face it, sometimes years – to understand some life concepts.  being told that i had cancer was not a concept i integrated in a few months.  i could barely acknowledge it as i was forced to sign living wills and negotiate to not have a chemo port installed.  i had so much anxiety that i willingly and gratefully ingested xanax after xanax just so that i could breathe – or some semblance of breathing – hour to hour.  i fell down an emotional rabbit hole so deep that the nurses climbed down, hooked up the iv, and then climbed out again while i looked at the deep walls of the hole around me.  i had a few very very very very dear work friends who kept me going, who made me work, who made me attempt to function.  Perhaps they saw what i could not.  that i would find the ladder up and out.  if i can do for someone else what they did for me that year, then i will truely be on my way to being a good person. 

during the spring – i sat every day that i could very quietly with my little cotton-rimmed cap on my very bald head on my back rocking bench.  and i watched my garden come to life.  i have a little garden by many standards.  brooklyn yards mostly don’t come large.  but i had slowly worked over the years to change this sad and swampy mosh pit into a welcoming garden.  and the odd and offbeat reward, that spring, sitting on my back rocking bench with no hair and my cotton-rimmed cap on was to be able to be more still than i had ever been.  to see the sprouting of my garden.  to see the start of it’s above-ground life as it budded and stretched it’s many vines.  i saw something i would never have seen otherwise.  this growing jewel.  in the past, i never cared that much for spring..i still love the fall better but i now find my heart and hopes flutter at the start of spring.


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