Thursday, August 13, 2020


            A friend, Rusty, told us that he had found a cure for the Coronavirus. Suspicious, we asked what it was.

            “Gardening,” he said. We instantly understood.

            Kim and I have been doing a lot of gardening this summer, if by “gardening” we include landscaping. When we moved in our yard resembled a lot of post-construction yards – something like a moonscape.

We set to work planting trees, bushes and flowers. We had left intact the half-acre or so of woods that makes up the southern part of our property, and our goal was to gradually extend that woods across our front yard. (New to lake living, we don’t call the lakeside as the “front” – the front is the side that faces the street.) Last summer we spread mulch over the sand and then tossed on loads of leaves and pine needles. It’s getting there, though it will take a few years for the trees to grow.

Our Front Yard

Looking South to the Woods

Garden Area at Southeast Corner of House

            When we started the project, Kim said that one advantage in living in the woods is that we could reduce our gardening, an activity that becomes more difficult as we are getting older. Reduce it? What a joke!

            Empty spaces have become filled with plants that we planted, one at a time, and are now watering and weeding. When I say “we,” I mean that my role is primarily Wheelbarrow Man and Hose Wrangler, with some occasional shovel work when I can wrestle it from Kim’s hands. She is teaching me how to plant a bush, though she doesn’t fully trust me. She has instructed me to let her do the weeding of the flower beds, as I have difficulties distinguishing weeds from flowers. (My usual criterion – if it’s healthy, it’s a weed – is not true often enough.) And sometimes I trample the flowers on the way to the weeds. So, Kim, with her post-surgical back, bends over to do most of the weeding. I weed in the woods, where I can’t do much harm.

             We try to choose native plants that the birds and butterflies like, but the rabbits and deer won't eat.

Orange Daylily



            All of which goes to explain how we are being cured of the Coronavirus – or at least, of our preoccupation with it. While we are gardening, I am not checking my email for the far-too-many updates on the spread of the virus. And after a day of dragging the hose around or spreading the 6 cubic yards of hardwood mulch that arrived, I’m too tired to turn on the evening news to learn that the virus is spreading, politicians have done something outrageous, the weather is getting shittier, planes crash, buildings explode, and our racism appears to be ongoing. It is not especially encouraging to see the staff of a hospital cheering when one elderly patient actually survives and is released. No, gardening cures me of these preoccupations.

            I worked hard as a teacher. After a day of grading student essays, I could see that a stack of papers had moved from the left side of my desk to the right, and there was a new column of letter grades in my grade book. But now, when I work with Kim in the garden, I see this:

   become this:

Bird Girl in the Garden

Planters Hauled out of the Lake

Garden View from our Porch

You see, Rusty was right about his cure. Kim learned the same thing about photography and her other artwork: When you are really concentrating on a project, other problems vanish. Our newly-planted birch trees are under insect attack, the Black-eyed Susans are drooping, and the poppies need water! Tomorrow.

p.s. Randy and Linda, we told you we’d send you pictures of our garden. Here they are.


  1. Absolutely stunning! For the first time in my life, I've kept 6 plants alive long enough to bear fruit- it's been rewarding to look forward to something, even as simple as a ripe tomato :)

  2. Rusty is a friend? You call him a fiend in the first sentence.

    If I were you, I think I'd take a break from the news. Its effects sound completely negative.