For the past twelve years I’ve lived in a small townhouse complex of 33 units in northwest Calgary. It is very convenient and comfortable, small and practical and to me, it’s home. For most people, one of the pluses of living in a condo complex such as this is that condo fees cover grounds maintenance and living here is essentially labour-free. For me it is not so. The one thing I really miss living here is having a little plot of land to plant a garden of my own.
With only a small concrete patio on which to cultivate my green thumb, I’ve done my best over the years to create as much of an urban garden as possible, building various planters and window boxes and stubbornly attempting to grow perennials even though I have to plant them above ground (some come back, some don’t!). The short Calgary summers and periodic patches of full sun have made the whole endeavour a little challenging.
So the lawn, walkways and little gardens are maintained by landscaping crews throughout the summer. Although I do wish I had a garden, this suits me just fine. Recently however, there has been this one small patch of grass I walk by on a daily basis that has begun to drive me nuts. I’m not sure if it’s because I used to help thatch and rake the lawn in the spring at home in Ottawa many moons ago, or because I tend to be a bit of a type-A personality or because I’ve had so little time at home lately, but I started to lament the sight of this poorly growing lawn that was constantly choked out by old, dead grass. Each day as I walked past this little patch I would think to myself, ‘somebody really needs to rake this lawn!’
I don’t know why I cared so much about this stupid patch of grass. I don’t even like lawns. In fact, I find the North American obsession with the perfectly manicured and chemically addicted lawn borderline idiotic. It seems to me to be a colossal waste of time and precious resources. I would rather love to see a vegetable garden on everyone’s front lawn instead. But I know, I’m just a big dreamer…
So, on Sunday as I was out cleaning up the giant winter mess on the patio, I eventually ended up staring at this patch of grass and the three years worth of pine needles and dead grass that had accumulated on top of it. In an instant I marched across the parking lot to Ellen’s house to ask if I could borrow a rake. Ellen is the resident caretaker of the complex and ‘in charge’ of such things. I couldn’t tell if she wanted me doing it or not, but I said, “Ellen, I’m going to rake that patch of grass.” She said, “Okay.”
I vigorously began to rake that lawn, oddly possessed by an intense and unquenchable desire to give it air to breathe, room to grow and a fighting chance at flourishing again. The piles of dead grass that quickly accumulated were improbably satisfying. Strange, I know. A short hour later I stood proudly next to my patch of grass admiring my handiwork. Ellen came out and helped to scatter some grass seed and sweep the sidewalk and I said, “Well, I hope we get some rain, maybe it will come back this year.” The grass on the other side of the fence will be greener now, but only because I made it so.
Life in recent months has been an oscillating mix of busy travel and relaxing but listless home time, interspersed with days of wondering what I am going to do next. My usual month off has stretched to nearly two, and although I feel woefully out of shape I’m not exceptionally motivated to start training again. Thankfully the freedom to rest as long as I choose has been well earned and it’s refreshing not to feel any pressure to start training ‘right now!’ for a change.
These days I feel my heart being pulled in a million different directions and as a result it is alternately exciting and daunting to contemplate the creation of my own future. I have lots of fresh ideas and a growing passion for new projects to pursue as well as a lingering and persistent desire to continue on my current sporting path as long as my body will allow it. Fortunately, I feel a sense of patience and confidence building within as I begin to emerge from a short and strange hiatus from my normal life. I’m not really sure where it will all lead, but somehow, unnecessarily restoring and revitalizing that neglected little piece of grass gave me a small piece of peace amid the current uncertainty of life.