By Julie Urban
(Julie Urban is a full-time mom to two daughters, a former high school English teacher, and a freelance writer.)
Living in the Midwest, I look forward each year to the coming spring. After six months of cold temperatures, leafless trees, and lifeless gardens I am eager to emerge from my home, to feel the sun’s warmth on my skin, and to smell the defrosting earth. I watch from my windows for the first robins to appear in my yard, jabbing their beaks at the ground in search of earthworms. I listen for the high-pitched peeping of the killdeers as they stake out their homes in the gravel on the road. My calendar tells me spring begins on March 20, but the birds always know the truth.
With spring comes new life and endless possibilities. As a gardener, I spend the beginning of spring planning out my gardens. I decide which plants aren’t thriving and where to move them, which plants have become overgrown and divide them, and which spots are bare and need to be filled in. But first, I must clear away the remains of last year’s spent plants. I look at this job with a mixture of dread and excitement, dread because of the amount of work to be done and excitement because I missed having my hands in the dirt and I’m eager to see the new life popping up beneath the ugly, brown remains.
As I cut back the dead flower heads and carefully remove the brittle, wilted leaves, I uncover new bright green leaves, tentatively poking out of the ground, checking if it’s spring yet. I cut and remove, cut and remove, cut and remove until it becomes my rhythm. Before I know it, the old dead plants are gone, and my gardens are inhabited by fresh new life.
This spring, though, feels bittersweet. I cannot do all of the tasks I used to do. I can’t dig up entire plants, roots and all, hop on my spade to slice them into smaller plants, and dig holes to replant the dividends. It’s only been six months since I had surgery to repair the labrum in my right hip. On one hand, it seems like a long time ago and I’m frustrated that I haven’t fully recovered, that I’m not “normal” yet. On the other, I know six months is a relatively short time considering the procedures I had done. I was well aware prior to surgery that this would be a long recovery. So, I sit on a stool rather than squat as I perform the work I am able to do and I enlist the help of my young children and husband. For someone who prides herself on her independence and fitness, it’s difficult to realize where I’m at physically.
But then I think back to last summer, before my surgery, when these plants were in bloom. I wasn’t working in my gardens then; it was too painful to do even the simplest tasks. When autumn came, I couldn’t prepare my gardens for winter because I had just had surgery. I remember how it nearly broke my heart to be unable to garden, but more accurately, to be unable to do the things I had once done so easily. Now, I am gardening again. No, I’m not doing as much as I did a couple of years ago, but I’m working my way back to it. Just as my beloved plants are emerging from the earth to signal a new season, a new season of my life is beginning, one of recovery and rejuvenation. My plants don’t spring forth from the ground and burst into bloom on March 20. They wait for the right time and then grow slowly, but steadily, each day. It’s a long wait until they finally bloom come summertime, but they will eventually bloom and so will I.
A few days later, I awake to pain in my hip and my plants buried in a few inches of snow, but there’s a lesson in this, too. Just as the spring weather fluctuates, so does my healing body. Some days I feel good and I’m able to garden. Other days, like this one, are painful and I have to rest. I know that eventually summer will come and snow, pain, and limitations will be a distant memory.