On Spring Breaks and Yard Therapy
UAB is on Spring Break this week, and while my students are enjoying a marching band trip to Hawaii, I am spending the week blissfully at home, catching up on house chores and yard work, as well as basking in some peaceful time to think and reflect. I am always so grateful for this much-needed break in the semester before the craziness of finals and juries (final playing exams for music students). It seemed like I needed it even more this year, so the thought of a week of time for myself (for the most part) was a real blessing.
As I always do, I planned many more things to accomplish than I could ever get done, but that’s okay. Practicing has been a constant, as I have a chamber recital a week from Monday, but I have also been making time for my favorite Spring Break activity, yard work, too. When I tell people that I like to spend my vacation pulling weeds, they unfailingly give me that, “Okaaaay” look, but to me, pulling weeds is yard therapy- something I learned from my mother. My earliest memories of my mom are of her working tirelessly in our big yard on Westwood Lane. The house was not much to speak of, but the yard was wonderful, with lush green grass, beautiful flowers, and oak and pine trees. She would work outside all day, forgetting to eat or drink anything, finding her Zen with the rhythmic pulling of weeds and digging in the soil. I have no doubt that part of it was her making the house truly hers- something my father never could take away from her as he had so many other things.
Each Spring, as I begin the ritualistic pulling of weeds on our steep front hill, I never fail to think of my mom. I would often pick her up and bring her to our house to talk to me as I weeded or planted flowers after she moved to Birmingham. When I worked on the front hill, I would have her sit in the Bug with the top down, the dogs in the back seat to give her extra company. Each time she would tell me how she so wished she could help me, how much she missed working with her flowers, but I knew she was physically past doing anything like yard work anymore. It was a special time for us, a time of connection, a shared love of nesting, making our homes more beautiful. She would give me good advice, as she had an incredibly green thumb, while I was just equipped with incredibly great enthusiasm. She would reminisce, talking about her favorite flowers, and how her mother had loved working with flowers, too. Mom knew the names of every flower, something I have never mastered, but I will plant some beautiful flowers in her memory.
As the hours passed and I pulled weed after weed yesterday, I felt the most wonderful sense of calm come over me. It’s a time where I can think through things clearly, working out issues that have troubled me. The weather was absolutely perfect, with temps in the 60s and very low humidity. I looked up at the clear blue sky, a blue that only seems to come in Spring, and suddenly I heard my mother’s voice, clear as a bell, one single word, “Neese?” My heart pounded in my chest, and I stopped what I was doing to listen intently. It was probably just a figment of my imagination, but no matter, I felt like I was doing yard work with Mom watching over me. A gift no matter what.
My Spring Break is going by quickly, but I am savoring every moment. Today I have dubbed as my very own ‘Date Day’- a date with myself. My car is still in the shop, but I will drop Dan off at work and take the Blue MaGoo for a day of things I very rarely do for myself- a pedicure, maybe a visit to my favorite antique shop, lunch out somewhere on my own, as Dan has a busy day at the theater. This little holiday reminds me to do things that I enjoy, things that I often put off in trying to take care of others or work duties. For the past several years, I would take Mom out for a day of shopping at TJ Maxx and lunch at Sonic on my break. This year, I am on my own. It is the cycle of life as I continue to move forward with my own life now that Mom is gone. I will think of her, though, hear her suggestions as I plant flowers, feel her joy as I spend the day reveling in some rare time to myself.
Like my mother before me, I have bonded very deeply with my home, a place where I have found the greatest happiness of my life. Spending my Spring Break working on what Dan and I call ‘the house that love built’ is a little slice of Heaven to me, and something I will never take for granted. I am already feeling recharged and ready for the busy weeks to come. Time spent communing with my animals, taking in the views from the top deck, digging in the rich dirt and seeing the first buds of my many irises arrive have brought much-needed peace to my soul and joy to my heart. Traveling is always fun, but this vacation needed to be a staycation. No regrets here.