When I hear the term "skin like leather", I think of my grandfather. He toiled in the dirt, exposed to the harsh Texas summer sun, probably from the time he could stand until the time he laid down to die. When he would see his grandchildren, he would swoop us up into his strong, lean arms, and plant a kiss on each of our cheeks. He seemed to continually have a five-o'clock shadow (long before Don Johnson made this style popular), and his whiskers would scratch our tender faces. Squealing, we would turn away, rubbing our cheeks.
It was a source of wonder (at least for us children) at the difference in our soft, white, tender hands and his dark, wrinkled, tough, and calloused ones. We could not understand how they had become so weathered. A quiet man, he lived through many heartaches and hardships.
When I was young, I never understood the sadness that comes to so many around the holidays. To me, it was a happy time. Now I understand. The loss of loved ones, the realization of our own mortality, and the weathering of our bodies are all like drops of water wearing away our childish perceptions. Like whiskers on a tender cheek, sometimes life's lessons tickle us, sometimes it scratches, and sometimes it downright hurts. Time has a way of weathering us.
I'm beginning to see the weathering effects of time on my own body. I see it on my hands and my face. I feel it in my muscles, and in old injuries. (No, I'm not *that* old, but I'm getting there!)
I want to garden until I am no longer able to do so. Just like my grandfather. And so, as my eyes diminish and my body weakens (even though I'm not *that* old), I often think about my garden's maintenance, and how to make it easier to keep beautiful. I will hopefully have many more years of love's labour in my garden (I'm not *that* old, you know), but it's best to think ahead. Besides, a low maintenance garden sounds good, no matter the age of the gardener! (You can be 29 for several years, but not forever!)
The very best essay I have ever read on gardening and our aging bodies is this essay HERE posted on GardenWeb by luseal.
She makes the argument that, the most low maintenance garden is a winter garden - a garden full of evergreens, deciduous shrubs, trees, and winter interest.
A few of her points include:
~~ "If gardening makes you happy and you do not wish to give it up, plan for your older gardening days."
This is important not only due to aging, but also if you need to be away from the garden for a while, whether it is a fun vacation or an unexpected illness.
~~ "Evergreen structure is the most important aspect of a winter garden."
I always, always include evergreens in my garden beds. I try to imagine what the garden will look like with only the evergreens before I plan in other plants. These are the bones I will see in winter.
~~ "Do I plant perennials? Yes, but not a whole bed."
I made the mistake of having an entirely perennial garden bed early on, and was so dismayed by the look of my garden that winter, I ripped it all out and started over.
~~ "Around each bed I plant Korean boxwood."
Boxwood may not be your plant of choice, but her main point is to edge each bed with plants or a hard edging like brick or concrete. This really does make the beds look neater.
~~ She also recommends that all or most of the evergreens, deciduous shrubs, and trees be flowering. This gives another season of interest and beauty to your garden, whether the flowers come in spring, summer, or fall.
~~ "Nothing do I love more than lying across my bed looking out of my upstairs window at the full green winter garden below."
Nothing better than being happy with the garden all year round!
I don't know luseal, but I took these principles to heart when I started planning my garden. I broke these rules in a few areas, but at least I knew in advance these would be beds that might require more maintenance, care, and work. When I plan a new area of my garden, I now plan for winter first.
The beauty of these principles are that they can be used by anyone that has an illness, a disability, sees their youth weathering away, or just wants a low maintenance garden. If you haven't read this essay, it is worth reading and thinking about by every gardener, whether you're *that* old (you know, old as dirt) or a young spring chicken!
I'm joining Donna of Garden Walk Garden Talk's Word 4 Wednesday meme on the word Weathering.