Finding Hope and Elinor in the Garden

I was exhausted from the national and global turmoil that fills every screen or newspaper I see.

I was exhausted from the raw dampness crawling into my joints signaling winter would not leave without a fight.

I was exhausted from not being able to find my words or my story.

Nothing seemed to be working.

And then on a gloomy Sunday with a rainy forecast three weeks after spring officially arrived but had yet to show up off the calendar, the sun began to shine, the chilling wind fled for other places, and I became energized.

Within hours, the malaise that lingered from winter vanished. I had things to do. Work for my professional practice. Writing on my work in progress and on this blog. But I dug out my gardening gloves and shears and headed for the dirt.

When I downsized from a ten-room house to a three-room tindominium, my garden shrank commensurately. I have five raised beds and countless pots of various sizes. There’s a patch in front of the tindominium reserved for roses and hydrangeas, must-haves on Cape Cod. The half-acre I worked for thirty-one years was ten times as large as my new mini-garden.

I’ve learned that the size of my garden matters far less than I could have imagined. The very act of putting your hands in the earth, the smell of fresh dirt, and the sight of green buds popping up through what winter has killed is enough to speed the heart and a reminder about how important hope is.

With the sun warming my shoulders as I snipped away dead herbs, I remembered how I had started my work in progress with a similar scene where my protagonist is putting her own garden to bed. I thought of her with fondness, more of a gardening companion than an imaginary friend, and started to think about her life, her story I was trying to tell. I had stalled a few weeks before, telling my husband after a day of writing, “I’ve lost Elinor.”

I poke through the dirt in pots and discovered what appeared to be purple tips of asparagus growing. They were the hostas I wasn’t sure would survive the winter in a container. With each pot and each discovery, I celebrated survivorship. By later afternoon when the clouds and rain that had been predicted rolled in, I was giddy. I welcomed the rain, which I knew would drench the plants I had uncovered and ready them for the next bout of sunshine.

While putting away my garden tools, I remembered seeing Anne Lamott’s tweet earlier that morning.



FollowingFollowing @ANNELAMOTT


I’m getting married tmrw in a redwood grove, at the age of 65, to a tall handsome writer @NealFAllen—good sense of humor, is smarter than I am, can fix anything, and cook. So never ever give up, no matter how things look or how long they take. Don’t quit before the miracle. Deal?

11:16 AM – 12 Apr 2019

Lamott has long been one of my writing heroes and I received her message with gratitude. But it wasn’t until I was in the garden that I felt it. And I found Elinor.


Hope is the thing with feathers   That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words,   And never stops at all… Emily Dickinson









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