Friday, April 12, 2013

Embracing Change

If there is one word to describe the legacy of the Boomer Generation, it is Change. We have seen music go from vinyl records to getting our music from "the cloud." Computers have shrunk from the once mammoth machines that filled entire rooms to the size of a small notebook that slips easily into your purse. We have put a man on the moon, an African American in the White House, and women in jobs they only once dreamed of. We have also, sadly, seen our soil attacked in the most brutal way imaginable for the first time since The War of 1812 and once happy trips home to see Grandma now involve taking off our shoes to look for explosives and full body scans. Is it any wonder that as we get older we look for things to cling to, for the unchangeable, to provide some sense of being grounded, to "Be Here Now" as Ram Dass taught us.

For me, that idea, that thing to cling to, was gardening. There was a sense that regardless of what was going on in the world, be it technology or politics, I knew that night followed day, sunrise followed sunset, and the seasons came and went in a normal, natural progression that I could count on. I put the seeds in the ground, I watered and fed, I raked and weeded (and even talked to them), and I got the results I expected except for the occasional drought or hail storm. As long as I was planted in my garden along with the flowers, veggies and neighborhood wild life, all was well in my world.

The one thing I didn't have any control over was the economy. I still had to work to support myself and jobs in my area of upstate New York were disappearing as fast as my sunflowers after a particularly hardy invasion of woodchucks. Alas, after 8 blissful years, I had to give up my lovely country town and my little piece of heaven outside to move closer to where the jobs were ... and ended up in a small apartment with a screened in porch.

I moved in August, at almost the end of the growing season. I dug up a few plants that I felt would travel well and put them in pots in the back of the car to take them almost 30 miles south of where I had been living. All winter I sat and stared at that porch, mourning over my garden and wondering how I would ever survive with all the traffic and concrete. By spring I had created in my mind an outrageously ambitious plan for the porch. I built a small metal arch with flower boxes at each end up which I imagined morning glories and moon flowers climbing. I surrounded the arch with a small plastic fence enclosing huge patio pots of flowers. From the hanging planters on the walls I grew herbs and begonias. There wasn't much room to sit and enjoy the view but I didn't care. I had my garden.

A few tips about porch gardening: if you live on the top floor of a building that faces west, you can expect to the take the brunt of any summer storms. By brunt I mean like tornado force winds that toppled the arch and tore out the morning glories. The flowers in the floor planters were so heavy that I was unable to move them indoors and some of them never came back from the drowning they took in that first storm of the season ... and one of the cats ate all the chives.

 So what was the lesson I learned from this experience? Maybe the word "adapt" is a word we can exchange for the word "change." Maybe instead of digging in and saying, "no, no more changes," we can use the wisdom we've gained from all of the other changes in our lives and say instead, "how can I make this work?" So I stopped watching HGTV shows on yard gardening and landscaping and started researching container gardening. I talked to people in my new neighborhood about what worked here and what didn't. Now I have an soft, inviting garden room in the summer with vertical boxes on the wall and plant hangers I can easily lift and move when a storm rolls in. I added charming elements like wind chimes and small garden sculptures (like Mr Toad from Wind In The Willows and a stone lighthouse), and hung a colorful flag on the wall. I swear that if it was not for the screen, the neighborhood birds would be in there with me, so many hang out on the railing outside.

Change doesn't have to always be painful. Sometimes it can be an opportunity to see how much we've grown and what new wonders there are to discover. Boomers never really get old - we just keep reinventing ourselves. Rock on!

And so it is.