Tiny Gardens & Depression

Just over two years ago, I went searching the net for depression support.  And boy, did I find it!  I joined a forum that included people from around the world.  Having that connection was the beginning of me being able to write.  Which for me was huge!  And from that first group of people, I made one really close and important friend.  Then I fostered and encouraged another.  I have never been one to juggle relationships well, even of the internet variety.  So, from a small handful of people who gave me their words and attention, sprang a new beginning for my life, one that has led me down so many new paths, new directions, many I might never have known otherwise.  And my viewpoint of depression in general, as well as personally, has improved as I’ve become educated and learned to practice new ways of thinking and doing.

I have a book called “Things I Learned About Life from my Garden.”  I haven’t run across it in quite some time, because I put the ideas into practice, and made a real garden.  Being only an amateur writer, I felt clumsy sometimes, as I tried to make “subtle” analogies, outright suggestions, and mainly just random observations on the depression forum, from little “light bulb” moments in my garden.

I gathered several readers who left me comments regularly, which was wonderful for me.  Being depressed probably means you are lonely also.  But one day, and just for the record, not all of my posts were about the garden, a girl pops up I didn’t know, and comments on my page (in public) that if she wanted to read about gardens, she would go to a gardening blog.  Her comment made me feel sort of bad, for her, for me, for us all, I mean, how could she not get the connection, the reasoning?  Other people did.  They seemed to like my funny little garden stories.  I just could not perpetuate my despair by writing about how crummy I felt, day after day, like so many others did.  I felt like anybody could whine and complain incessantly, so maybe it was my path to add some levity, shine a little light.  It just didn’t work for everybody.

So today, in honor of the depression tribe, I want to tell you all about one of my recent growing projects.  I am a face value kinda girl, so I usually go with my gut feelings, I follow my intuition where it leads me, as real planning and organization have eluded me in this lifetime, anyway.  One day I decided to try some aromatherapy to help center and ground my monkey mind, and for some reason, I was guided to eucalyptus.  I ordered a tiny vial of eucalyptus and lemon grass, which sounded divine, as I imagined little koala bears all smiling…  which oddly led me to the ebay where I found a man selling eucalyptus seeds, eucalyptus gunni to be exact.  (that one’s for you, Matt).

Isn’t it funny when you get a great idea, and you’re totally stoked and way out on a limb over it, and suddenly there is someone who vehemently disagrees, out of the blue, so to speak…  I don’t like that when it happens… hahaha  Anyway, these teeny tiny microscopic black seeds came, smaller than a black poppy seed, and I thought to myself, “wow, what in the hell?…”  This is supposed to make a tree?  Come on, really, you are kidding, right?

My dear and ever-present roommate, Jim, took one look at my latest project, and once again got all animated and highly concerned over my clearly “crazy” plan.  My thought process was based on the great success I achieved growing bamboo.  Again, everyone told me, “oh, no.  You don’t want to grow bamboo!  It will take over!”

Well, what do you do, when you live on a patch of ancient sea bed, of wild junipers and scrub oak, entirely made of sugar sand, with a hard clay table about 3 to 4 feet beneath.  I come from the luscious and beautiful east Texas, where the ground is fertile, and you’re surrounded in pine forests.  I shake it off, and look at what has succeeded for me in the past, which happily, was the bamboo.

From one disgusting root/tuber grass-wrapped looking thing that seemed far too soggy and rotten/forgotten to survive, I now enjoy what I call the Spiritual Bamboo Garden, where my sweet little Paleface is buried.  This bamboo has given me full coverage privacy from the prison yard/junkyard next door (I exaggerate here for effect.)  It is more important to me that the neighbors can’t see me, as my wardrobe tends to be a bit unpredictable at times…

You see, this soggy bamboo root planted alone some years ago, is now a miraculous garden of unending pleasure for my mini-panther Spooky, and the 110 year-old calico, Cherokee.  It has truly created a micro-climate, a bamboo forest that is now many yards long in length and breadth.  When the harsh summer sun gets super intense around June and July with no rain in sight, the bamboos will just curl up, close up their leaves, they sort of shut down to conserve energy and survive.  But the true amazing miracle of the bamboo lies underground where the root system from one plant shoots out in every direction and from there a new plant will sprout to the surface.  It’s exactly like the spiritual heart/mother tree in the movie Avatar.  It’s not individual plants so much as one connected organism and I find that amazing!

What else would grow and thrive like this on the ancient sea bed of sand.  Well, my next best bet is eucalyptus.  From the limited research I’ve done to this point, it would seem that a eucalyptus tree, once established, is quite strong and enduring, and there also seems to be some mystical element to them also.  There is much to discover!

Today is Monday, and I was keen to face the week, since it has now been two days with no SSRI’s in my system.  It’s like that box of chocolates, you just never know…   So far I’ve enjoyed some bouts of dizziness all centered right behind my nose, between my eyes, a certain uncomfortable pressure in my skull that is constant, so far…  Any morning when you’re 58 can be a challenge, hehe, but when you are determined and completely engaged in kicking all prescription meds once and for all, despite the raised eyebrows and clearly fearful admonishments of dear Jim, of my quest, (bless his heart… ), I find that the weeks have turned into a couple of months now, of trying…  facing my fears and anxiety head on, feeling, yes feeling for the first time in too many years.  One might expect a little drama, perhaps some major unsettling discomfort, but, happily, there are other Positive results to be reaped from this venture.  Such as the impact of pleasant surprises, like the joy at seeing a tiny seed pop open and reveal a little tail!  And this morning, I remembered the euc gunni seeds on top of the fridge, and I quickly got them down for inspection.

And there, lo and behold, some of the teeny black specs seemed to have something white-ish on them; I needed my reading glasses to be sure, but instinct told me to “Rejoice!”  The Eucalyptus seeds have germinated!  I must insert a true gardening/growing secret I just discovered that made this little miracle possible.  I know, it seems so obvious, but then, give me a break…  horticulture is not totally natural for me, for some unknown reason.  I love plants, just like the women who came before me.  But through my internet research, I discovered that if you simply put a tight lid on your germinating container, i.e., put the lid on your Tupperware, the drops of water you put on your paper, on your seeds, will concentrate and voila’ you have germination.  Some things are so easy when you learn the “tricks.”  My initial research had told me that “pricking” extra hard seeds could encourage germination.  I’m open to ideas, but come on!  (I felt like a huge clumsy Giant on a teeny tiny planet.)  This “pricking” idea was not gonna happen.

The newly sprouted seeds have been quickly planted into seedling pots alongside some mixed pepper seedlings.  They are now out on the table Jim just built, which is beneath his window on the outside, facing south, where the morning and afternoon sun can shine down gently through the river tree that protects his window.  Another trick I have learned about germination is that soil temperature is key.  If you don’t yet have your dream greenhouse built, like me, you have to be cognizant of temps and especially ground temps.  Get the potting medium warm, between 65 and 75 F, and your seeds will have a fighting chance.  I mean, we all should be able to grow things, right?  We are human, right?  (… “but ‘ya know it don’t come easy….”)

Despite the adamant warnings of my roommate/landscaper, that his research on eucalyptus gunni revealed that this is a highly invasive plant, that again, will try to “take over,” I believe I have succeeded in the introduction of yet another foreign species that just might do well here.  Well, whoopti do, yee haw, and all that stuff, that’s the idea, Partner!  haha   Perhaps I should consider that a previous friend planted, of all things, Catalpa trees here in our front yard, (I call them the River Trees because they came from the San Marcos River down by New Braunfels), and these catalpas are clearly out of their element here in the semi-arid desert we call “the farm.”  But guess what, the river trees also connect underground.  And in that light, the sand is a perfect growing medium, as long as we amend their soil at times and water, water, water.  Compost is my life!  And guess what?  Within a short three-year span, there are four catalpas over 15-20 feet tall, fanning out widely with large green leaves.  And little baby river trees are popping out all over in the most unexpected of places!  Much to Jim’s dismay!  (Jim believes in a manicured lawn with artistic embellishments, and I’m more into random permaculture.)  I find it hugely amusing that I am growing/planting massively invasive plants on purpose, and poor dear Jim is out there daily with his fork/hoe secretly chopping anything unauthorized.

I could get mad or upset, but he has a right to engage in his own brand of gardening.  What he hasn’t yet realized is that I can be just as subversive and I have made mental note of each and every baby river tree peeking up around corners, and edging our driveway.  I have pointed out to him that many people might like to have a little catalpa tree in their yard, so maybe instead of chopping them, we could re-plant them into containers until a proper planting can be achieved.  Lately, I noticed a marked decrease in missing baby catalpas.

Going back to a particular website, say… a depression support site, and being labeled bipolar and quite prone to free association, and you just happen to mention/delve into a totally unrelated topic like gardening, grab all your energy and pull it back in, try to stay on topic.  Lesson for the day:  Don’t expect heavily drugged individuals to discern subtle analogies.  Even if you think they aren’t subtle at all…    And don’t expect grumpy old control-freak roommates to agree with your free-style gardening techniques either.

Keep on, keep going, keep it together, keep it simple…  Hava great week, my aspiring friends, and just remember, from a tiny, unappreciated seed, You Can Grow a Beautiful Enduring Tree, so that many can benefit and enjoy!  Rock On!

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