Within a year after we were married, my wife and I moved into a small house with a fairly good sized yard. We wanted the privacy that living in an apartment couldn’t provide. We also wanted to entertain our friends and families with backyard parties.
Since the house had been a rental for many years, the tenants hadn’t taken care of the yard. Maybe you can imagine some of the problems I had revitalizing the vegetation. Not the least of which, were the two overgrown apple trees.
I believe those trees were from the original stock when the land was an orchard, before the turn of the century. When I moved in, I started a rigid program of pruning and shaping that eventually produced some of the largest Red Delicious apples I’ve ever seen.
One of my reasons for leaving the apartment was to grow a vegetable garden. So, I removed a huge block of grass and filled the space with topsoil. I was proud of the vegetables I grew. Each winter, I started seeds under fluorescent lights. People still ask about my peas every spring and whether I got my tomatoes planted.
Along with the garden, I worked on the house too. In one project, I remodeled the living room using scrap wood paneling and installed a wood-burning stove my dad built. I replaced a window with a sliding glass door that opened up on the redwood deck I built. The deck had several tiers and long angles that took careful planning and precise calculation to make it look right.
Living in a one and one-half bedroom house was okay for the two of us, but we wanted a family so I planned a second floor. Of course, in order to build it, I needed to beef up the practically non-existent foundation. Those plans led to my digging a basement, by hand, under the house. I’ve written about that project before, but I never mentioned the benefits.
During the winter, when I couldn’t work in the garden, I came home from work, ate dinner, and climbed into the hole. I dug for hours with pick and shovel. There were many times I wished for some dynamite to loosen the hard pan.
Although it was many years ago, I still think about those days and wonder how I ever found the time for all my projects. I realize, however, that I didn’t do much else. When I wasn’t making a living, or working on a project, I planned and plotted. I thought about where to plant tomatoes next season, or how to build the deck extension.
I was lost in my thoughts, but there were benefits to all that contemplation. The stress relief was healthy, but the scheming made difficult jobs easier. When it came time to actually do the project, I’d already built it in my mind and I knew exactly where to begin.
Now, we live in a different house. Gardening seemed to take a backseat to Dutch oven cooking competitions. Dutch ovens gave way to my writing career and my weed patch is doing nicely, thank you. I’m still busy plotting and planning. Characters need to be drafted and articles need to be researched. I’ve re-set my priorities.
The strength I gathered from my projects has been replaced with the strength that comes from writing and it’s brought me through some hard times. Before his health went bad, my father was my conspirator. He helped me with many of my backyard projects. When he died of cancer, my writing took me away from the reality of the hospital room. I even shared some of it with him. He said he was proud.
Some of my friends and family think I’m wasting my time writing. They see my tilled under weed patch and lament the gardens I used to grow. What should I say to them? Should I say anything?
Like gardening and remodeling, writing has become more than therapy for me. It’s a way of life. I admit discouragement at times and maybe I am a little crazy, but have you ever listened to them?
The ATV enthusiast can’t wait to tell you about the latest, sweet ride. The snow-boarder speaks another language and risks his life on that perfect maneuver. I know Dutch oven people who spend a whole year planning for a five-hour event and all they get from it, is a pat on the back. There are myriad ways people use to cope. Each one is more than a hobby to the enthusiast.
I could be working in my garden, or rebuilding cars. I could go golfing everyday, or even fishing. I choose to write. Its what I do.
If you choose the same, don’t let the skeptics dissuade you. Hang in there and keep writing. It will save your sanity.