Cultivating Body and Mind

As Spring starts, you may feel the urge to dust off your exercise gear and get a bit more active. How about getting a bit more active around the house and in the garden? For a lot of people wanting to get active, they just don’t know where to start. Often we get so overwhelmed by the enormity of a task that we just put our heads back in the sand and go back to sitting on the couch.
Gardening became my way of keeping active by total accident. I had stopped running, swimming and cycling after a viral infection and had even become too tired to continue with the ballroom dancing that I loved. I had a bad fall horse riding and injured my neck which was then aggravated by another fall hiking. I moved into a townhouse and for the first time had my own garden. My dad suggested some plants and they were dead within a month. When he came round to survey the damage, he suggested that watering the garden might be a good place to start! So every evening when I got home from work, I would get out the hose pipe and start watering the garden. As I watered, I noticed the weeds. So then I started weeding. Then the roses bloomed and the blooms died – Google provided the answer, dead head the roses. I remembered something about roses needing to be pruned – YouTube has video clips! And then the roses got bugs and all sorts of leaf ailments. Google helped as did a few trips to the nursery with specimens of leaves and bugs. And then the gardening bug had bitten!

As I got braver I decided that the one flower bed looked like a jungle without many plants that I liked. That took a few weeks to remove shrubs and cut back trees. Every plant comes with its own growing needs and its own bugs that prey on it. I spent hours on Google looking up the various plant ailments and learning how to correct the conditions for the different plants. I then started looking at how to propagate the various plants – this has become my greatest love. I have also over time gathered quite a collection of indoor plants which all have their own idiosyncrasies. Some days I can get quite carried away – I can start in the garden early in the morning and carry on until after dark. A headlight then becomes necessary, but brings with it mozzies. I have a very small, shady garden – to get a bit more space and be able to plant some sun-loving plants, I have taken over part of the common property in the complex. The garden was horribly neglected, overgrown with weeds and building rubble dumped in the flower beds. Cleaning up the gardens took a few months and maintaining them takes time. But the hard work is definitely worth it. Every morning I look out of my window onto a flourishing garden.

Anxiety became one of my greatest obstacles to exercise. At one stage I became too anxious to leave the house, so going for a walk was not an option. If I feel overwhelmed by my garden or I don’t have the energy to take on a big project over the weekend, I can focus on my indoor plants. Some days that also feels a bit daunting but once I start, the anxiety lifts and everything just gets going. I very often find myself outside and a bit later I will be in the common garden weeding a flower bed. People say that learning a new language is a good way of staving off memory loss. I am learning the language of plants. I spend a lot of time on plant websites and reading plant books. I have learnt that a hobby that drives your interest and your passion will inspire learning. I have had complaints that it is difficult to get up the stairs to our front door due to the number of pots on the stairs. The kitchen window sill has a lot of cuttings that are rooting in water. Patients who are keen gardeners have shared their cuttings and their passion. At work I have succulents from the huge pots downstairs – the smokers who throw their cigarettes in the plants don’t miss the odd leaf.

Gardening has allowed me to exercise my body and my mind and the payoff has been a beautiful space to rest my soul.


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