Gardening has been a favorite outdoor activity for years. This love of the ground and raising plants began in 6th grade when I dug up a spot in our yard and planted a vegetable garden. Tomatoes grew like weeds and the joy that came with watching and nurturing plants sank deep in my psyche like tap roots.
As a twenty something high school teacher, summers were spent operating a small landscaping business. I had a truck and hired several high school students as laborers. We would plant shrubs and trees, build retaining walls, and haul bulk items like top soil, rock, and mulch. During this phase of life, I also regularly ran 20-30 miles per week and participated in 5Ks periodically. I never felt better!
Every home we lived in over the years would get hours of loving care in terms of landscaping and gardening. Redoing lawns, building greenhouses, planting flowers, edging and mulching planting beds, planting trees and shrubs, and building fences (see photo) were just a part of life.
Thirty years later and living with rheumatoid arthritis has dramatically changed these activities. This fact was recently evident when my wife started edging a planter bed and digging up sod in order to plant new flowers and lay mulch. In the past, I would’ve been in the thick of this kind of work. She began the digging knowing that I couldn’t help. We were delighted when our wonderful neighbor came over and started helping edge and pulling up sod. Instead of just passively standing by watching someone else do the work, I decided to work on bonsai gardening. The kind of work needed to maintain bonsai – pruning, watering, etc. - is doable given the impact of RA on my joints and energy levels. My dwarf Cedar of Lebanon and Western Red Cedar bonsai seem to be doing very well (see photo).
I can no longer dig sod or haul mulch, but I can still get my hands dirty and nurture plants – just on a much smaller scale!