Dreaming Green and Growing: Sustainability and Mental Health

I did a lot of digging in the dirt this weekend—elbow deep in potting soil and sweat.

However, Sara’s the one who’s done the heavy lifting when it comes to yard work this spring and summer, transforming a backyard in ruin into one we can be borderline proud of.  I say “borderline,” because we still have a massive distance to travel when it comes to growing grass instead of weeds.  However, the dog poop is picked up, raised beds have been built, and these two left-leaning lesbians have a patch of pure happiness beyond the back door.

But, as Sara pointed out, I’ve always had a thing for flowers.  Even in the darkest days of my bipolar disorder, green things mattered.

In Dallas, it was African violets I had growing:

Government subsidized housing or not, it helped to have petals opening:

Whether it was petunias in clay pots or zinnias on my kitchen counter—the unfolding always fed me—basil and impatiens on my balcony:

So living in Tulsa, overly medicated and fighting for even snatches of sanity, I wrote this poem about an artist friend who had pretty much planted an antique mannequin in her garden—a lawn ornament of sorts.  This image, as oblique as my psychosis, spoke to me.  Somehow it was important, powerful, as well.  It spoke to me of hope—of healing—a mind dreaming of meaning, even in my madness.


(for Shawn)

Her garden mannequins wear antique
     beaded bracelets
Accolades of color
                     at odd
An oblique circling of ornamental
     in the lawn
New bodies blooming


How do you grow hope?

Does grace grow in your garden?

20 thoughts on “Dreaming Green and Growing: Sustainability and Mental Health

  1. A counsellor (therapist) said to me I was like a tree that was pot bound and that I needed to take myself out of that pot, shake the roots free and replant in in a new place where I could grow and blossom!! Lord. Well, I think I’m suitably repotted (or just potty, whatever) and now bearing the fruit of hope. Love all the colours in this post, visual and metaphorical. Lovely.


  2. I love your garden. I love your poem. I love the colors. I think that flowers and plants have powerful healing powers. My house is currently empty of plants, and it is not a home. My garden is full of weeds because it is not my garden. My head is missing something . . .


    • Ah, but, Lisa, you have been pouring all of your creative energy into drama with the developmentally disabled–an incredible project that I suspect feed you, as well. Or maybe not. Maybe it depletes you. That kind of work usually does one or the other. Your head is missing nothing but the affirmation it so deserves!


  3. When I had a house, I tried to garden. But like all the houseplants I’ve ever owned, nothing lived. Just don’t have the knack. Instead I “grow” cats. I’ve always adopted kitties who were lost, abandoned, abused, forgotten. Watching their little souls uncurl and flourish gifts me with grace and joy.


  4. I’m curious: How do you and Sara manage to plant a garden, knowing that you probably won’t be around your home long enough to tend to it? I love plants and gardens, but my desire to travel means that I’m always thinking “who will take care of these plants when we’re away?”


    • That’s a damn good question, as I objected to flowers for that very reason! Well, at least at the beginning, I insisted it was a waste of time and money. However, Sara, insists it’s therapeutic for her, so I decided to accept the plan. She has worked so hard for so many years, I thought she deserved the chance to do what she wanted. We finally were able to agree, when she pointed out I might be here for the rest of the summer and that the perennials would bloom year after year and improve property value. Plus, if we are gone we have to have someone mow the lawn anyway, and our person will water in addition for free. (Sara usually spends a month or two in a new location without me to settle in, find a place to live, and focus on full out work post disaster.)


  5. Your garden and your poem are wonderful. 🙂

    I am new to gardening, but discovered in one of my deepest depressions that having my hands in the earth and watching things grow helped me to come up out of the dark earth and enjoy the sunshine, too.


    • I’m so glad you appreciate the petunias! Working in the garden is, indeed, hard work but well worth the effort. But, I can imagine why you might not be quite so motivated to work in yours at the moment. Hope your garden/septic problems are fixed soon, Wendy!


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