Janet Sheridan: Forgive me
If you saw me working in my yard in June, I apologize; I hope you had your children close their eyes as you drove by — no need for nightmares about crazed old ladies in pajamas wielding garden clippers and mumbling.
Due to the typical weather of a Yampa Valley spring, diversions that turned into procrastinations and too much travel, my husband and I started whipping our yard into shape about the time we usually congratulate ourselves for controlling the chaos.
Joel tackled his tasks in a reasonable manner. He pruned, edged, transplanted, sprayed, mowed and berated uncooperative equipment calmly and methodically, not allowing his chores to interfere with his equanimity, golf and grooming.
I, on the other hand, got sick. Whether from the notorious carriers of disease we call grandchildren, people who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom or the contaminated air circulated by airplanes, I succumbed to a summer bug the day after we arrived home to the shambles that used to be our yard.
After two weeks of sneezing, wheezing, coughing and croaking, I quit using tissues as often as toddlers say “no” and felt well enough to do something about my weed-choked flowerbeds and empty window boxes. The minute I pulled on gardening gloves and stepped into my yard, despite Joel’s fine example of measured progress, I abandoned any semblance of routine and acted as though I were mounting an attack against space invaders rather than weeds, slugs and plants run amok.
Each day, fueled by a lengthy to-do list and coffee, I charged into action: assembling necessary tools and searching for those that had escaped, discarding old pots because I had too many and buying new ones because I found them irresistible. I twitched with anxiety as I waited for our drip system to water the flowerbeds so I could pull weeds by their roots, then I grabbed and snapped the toughest intruders at their root lines, even though I knew better.
I lifted, dragged, stooped, leaned, twisted, crawled and wondered why my back hurt. I worked in the heat of the day and remembered too late that I hadn’t used sunscreen. I cracked and chipped the nails I’d nurtured all winter until they resembled the Grand Tetons and quit battling the dirt permanently embedded beneath them.
I did drive-bys of supermarkets and nurseries, checking out their goods. Then, back home, I made a list of what I wanted to buy. Finally, with the list in my pocket and a promise to adhere to it in my heart, I shopped — and came home with plants not on my list but as adorable as my new pots.
Then I stood befuddled in my yard without the plants I needed and no place to put the treasures I had purchased on a whim.
Meanwhile, Joel watched news shows, joined his friends on the greens, took an occasional nap during the heat of the day and continued to make measured progress on his tasks.
Which didn’t help.
But I persisted, telling myself, “Janet, you may be a slow starter and a bit unkempt, but you’re a fine racehorse when you get started.”
And despite my frantic behavior, I enjoyed the work, went to bed with a feeling of accomplishment, slept like a child exhausted from play and awoke each morning ready to go at it again. At my age, those are good things.
So if I startled you when I loomed up from behind a shrub, cackling and clutching a weed with its roots attached, I’m sorry.
But next spring, I’ll probably do it all over again.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.