Like many people, I entered the reawakening following the COVID shutdown with a long list of people I wanted to see, hug, and enjoy in person.  I’m still not caught up, but during the last couple of post-vaccination months, instead of writing letters, posting blogs, or preparing the latest LLW Zine, spending real time with friends and family was my priority, along with a large project here at our home:  reworking our tired perennial and herb gardens.    

The entertaining part was fun, easy, like getting back on a much-loved bicycle. The garden project was a whole lot more work. I’d neglected my perennial and herb gardens the past several summers and, coupled with this year’s unreliable Leelanau spring weather, updating them proved to be quite a challenge.  

I began planning the modifications during the winter months. Sitting beside our fireplace, gardening books and magazines on my lap, I studied soil types, growing zones, composting, and, of course, plants. But I soon became overwhelmed by the amount of information and recognized I needed the help of someone who had expertise in the world of horticulture. I searched online and eventually hired a garden designer to suggest an overall layout (because we wanted to add a gravel patio and path) and offer a list of plants he thought would work.

The actual preparation of the beds didn’t require a lot of expertise, just a willingness to get the job done. I was determined to handle this work myself. I spent days ripping out matted Cedar chips and pulling what seemed like miles of roots that had taken hold beneath the wood. Some days as I toiled, I needed a wool stocking cap and heavy denim jacket to protect me from the fierce winds.  Other days, salty sweat stung my eyes as I worked in the blistering sun.  My husband hauled rocks from our fields to define the edges of these beds and I worked with a second landscaper to select a revised list of plants hardy enough to withstand the conditions on our ridge.  

It became my mission to resurrect these gardens.  Always, after I finished my day’s garden work, I came inside the house dirty and tired.  Often the muscles in my hands ached so much that holding a pen would have been a challenge.  But as I began to see progress, the refreshed landscape reflected my own spirits. I found myself growing increasingly excited as the landscaper laid out the paths and patio and began moving and adding new plants to the surrounding dirt.  And after many weeks of planning and many long days of hard work, the garden I envisioned is now complete.

The air is close this morning, humid, and I’m settling into a calm space in my head, a reverie, admiring the gardens: the purples and yellows and pinks and whites, the spiky Russian Sages, the Lavender shrubs, the bushes of Baptisia, and the Catmint whose purple fronds explode like the final fireworks display at a Fourth of July celebration.  The fragrances of these plants are subtle, grace notes that float past if I’m not paying attention.  

Sitting in my rattan chair on our screen porch with a mug of tea ( 2/3 English Breakfast and 1/3 Earl Grey) on the glass table beside me, listening to the chirps of birds and the buzzing of insects from the nearby meadows and woods, along with the occasional hum of a motor as a car passes on M-22, I’m also holding my fountain pen. A pad of paper is on my lap, and I’m ready to resume my blogging, to work on the next LLW Zine, and mostly, to get back to handwriting letters. It’s time.