During lockdown, many of us turned to gardening for some kind of mental relief. I think that it is safe for me to say that gardening has saved me once again. Year after year I find that the more I learn about gardening, the more I fall in love with it. I use gardening as a tool. It’s been the best mindfulness therapy for my chronic conditions and I find huge comfort in that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bloody hard work sometimes and I’m only human to moan about it sometimes but the benefits far outweigh any negatives I might come across.
Today is the first time in a while that I have a real flare up of pain from Fibromyalgia. I can normally manage my pain but it’s got to the point where I can’t really walk more than 100 steps without feeling exhausted and in all over pain. It’s like the pain you feel all over your body when you have the flu sometimes.
So off I trot to the plot to try and manage my pain and my thoughts. When pain is your number one thought at the front of your mind, it’s hard to focus on anything whatsoever. Luckily my husband and son had plans today so I had sometime to rest and recover. When I am gardening, I have a focus. I didn’t plan anything today, so as not to stress myself out if I didn’t complete a task – one of the tools I learnt at my time in Tommy’s Hospital. These ‘tools’ help me achieve what I can. Sometimes I go to the allotment to pick herbs, or have a set plan in my head of a goal I want to achieve, but I don’t allow time to pressure me – despite the timelines in the gardening world. If I don’t manage to plant or sow something before the planting times, I either try anyway or just put it on the list for next year and find something else.
So having my time at the allotment today was just what I needed. I recently have bought myself a Niwaki Horizon Hori Japanese Weeding Knife and I needed to try it out and so I had a little fun with that today. I cleared a bed where I’ve been having nightmares about every time I look at it. I managed a few other little jobs like tidying up pots, and taking stock of the jobs that I actually need to do; rather than just worry about them constantly and feel overwhelmed.
Unfortunately there hasn’t been enough sun to power up my solar powered radio but I was actually quite thankful for the time to think today and listen to the sounds around me. There’s a really scraggly magpie I keep feeding too and he paid me a visit today so it was nice to feel that he was comfortable with me being around in his patch as he tore apart fat balls.
The mindful time had me thinking about how others deal with so much in their day to day lives and find such peace in gardening. I’ve been ever so inspired by the viewers videos on Gardeners World since they started doing them and we have seen so many people of all ages and abilities finding that primal need to to with plants and wildlife. It really does bring me joy and has even brought me to tears on several occasions.
I mentioned on my Twitter a few days ago about Thomas; an awesomely clever kid who was struggling with lockdown. I invited Thomas and his mum to my allotment to show them what I was growing and to show them around. One of the best things in the world is showing children where their food comes from. I love the amazement in their eyes. I love their constant questions – especially because I don’t have all the answers! So then it inspires me to find the answers for them.
It is honestly the best feeling in the world. Showing kids how to grow things is a huge passion of mine and I hope that reflects on my son.
About 6 weeks ago, I took Oscar down the allotment for the afternoon to play and so I could get some jobs done. I had sat down for a moment and my son came waltzing on over with his gardening fork, put his hands on his hips, looked at the tomato patch that I was looking at and said “WOW. Nice tomato plants Mummy! Good job!”. My life was complete. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear and it came from him at 3 years old. Who cares what he says to me anytime in the future now – he has a free pass. That’s honestly something I will never forget.
So back to Thomas. Lockdown was really hard on all of us but we’ve no idea of the extent of damage that it’s done to our children. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my son – even though he’s not of school age (which I feel would have been a lot worse). He is a little more clingy and as an only child, he misses the company of other children and that’s something we relied on heavily with nursery and play dates etc. It has been a confusing time for all children and in my lifetime, I have never experienced anything like it. However, the allotment was the first port of call when we went into lockdown. We spent hours upon hours there. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to invite Thomas and his mum to the ‘garden’ (as we call it), to come chill out and see the chickens and to show what I do with my time.
We walked around and he asked questions and I explained to him what everything was and anything that was ready, I would pass to him to eat. I showed him the other plots and the chickens and the pond. At the end, I shovelled loads of plants that I had spare to Thomas’s mum and off they went on their day. Never would I have imagined that Thomas enjoyed it so much and has been harvesting and eating his own courgettes. He really is a passionate and thoughtful kid and I truly believe that he could go far with gardening and would love to have him down the plot any time. It’s hard to explain this feeling as it’s a true belief in a person. I do have a lot of belief and love in Mother Nature and think she is sometimes the most healing thing and that gives me belief in such inspiring young people. After all, they are our future.