A friend recently loaned me a copy of Joan Dye Gussows book “Growing, Older – a Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables” and I loved every page! I was amazed at how many similarities there are in our lives! Her husband of 40 years died when she was about the same age as I was when my husband of 41 yrs. died. She is a passionate gardener, environmentalist, nutritionist and writer who in her old age grows much of her own food. One of the things I love about the book was reading about her struggles with critters and Mother Nature – and her sense of humor around it all, as well as her “dogged persistence” in carrying on in spite of the challenges. It was a great read and I recommend it to all you gardeners out there – young and old!
I was about to say that it would take a lot to dampen my enthusiasm for gardening when I suddenly remembered that I actually discovered in my mid 50’s what it took! My husband and I were in a sort of transition stage in our lives, where we were looking for something new to do and somewhere new to do it. Through a string of interesting synchronicities (which I will write about one day), we found ourselves as the Head of Maintenance and Head Gardener (actually the ONLY one of each!) at a beautiful place called Meditation Mount in the Ojai Valley in California. The landscaped grounds were about 10 acres with 4 homes, a large office building, a conference center, parking lot and a special public garden that ran out to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the whole Ojai valley and the daily sunset! The valley is filled with orange and avocado groves and is quite a magical place. But gardening on that hot, dry hilltop was a challenge. In the summer I would start work before the sun came up to beat the heat and for the first time in my many years of gardening I put my back “out” – rather regularly!
Perhaps it was gardening as a profession instead of as a “hobby” that took the joy out of it – perhaps it was caring for a huge public place and so often working around visitors. I’m not sure. I DID meet some wonderful people from all over the world as I worked there. But whatever it was – it wasn’t really until I moved back to Oregon that my joy in gardening returned – with great gusto! I was SO relieved! I had really missed it, and didn’t know how to get it back! I gardened in Florida, but was spending so much time taking care of a dying husband and then two dying parents that I didn’t have a huge amount of energy left for gardens, I guess. So I was truly delighted when I discovered in my first spring back in Oregon that it had returned!! It always wanes a bit toward the end of summer and I am happy when the cool weather and rains revive my enthusiasm as well as the garden.
I feel really blessed to have a big garden and a big passion for working in it toward the end of my seventh decade of life! Like Joan Gussow, I have no interest in “exercising”, but give me a garden to play in and I’ll work out all day!