Sandy Hook, deck work, and Harvest Monday, December 17, 2012

It is hard for me to think of anything other than the suffering families in Newton, CT. I feel their pain. We lost our son Bob seven years ago in December, and it still hurts. Bob would have been 50 this year, but his life stopped at 43 when he took his own life with a gun. All I can say is that the pain of loss lessens with time and we heal. But as far as I can see, a parent never gets over losing a child, whether that person was an adult or a child.

My Grandmother Lucy Wilson lost three of her six children  before she died, all as adults. My Uncle Bob Wilson died at 33, my Grandpa Wilson at 39, and my Dad at 52. My way of coping with the loss of my son was to recognize that, for whatever reason, the Wilson men tended to die prematurely.

My other coping mechanism was to turn to my yard and garden. The first two years, everything that I planted died because I just couldn’t take care of my garden. I was still grieving too much. Then, five years ago, I took out non-food-producing trees and put in fruit trees. I planted spring bulbs. I built raised beds for vegetables. Eventually, I got chickens. There is vibrant life in my yard now.

But I also let our infrastructure fall into disrepair, and let dirt and stuff accumulate in the house.

Every year December rolls around and is a new beginning for me. This December, we are getting the deck repaired. We have replaced and updated the fixtures in the guest bath. And we have  hired a cleaning service to clean our house top to bottom. Every week, our lives are getting better. But during this healing and rejuvenation process–and it is a process–chaos reigns.

I filled the deck with plants. I wanted to be surrounded by LIFE. But my plants rotted the deck.

I filled the deck with plants. I wanted to be surrounded by LIFE. But my plants rotted the deck.

Looking at the other side of the deck. The vegetable beds are to the left, and the chicken coop is behind me.

Looking at the other side of the deck. The vegetable beds are to the left, and the chicken coop is behind me.

A leaking patio pond rotted a few boards too.
A leaking patio pond rotted a few boards too.

The support boards under this section rotted. Don't know why, I had no plants here.

The support boards under this section rotted. Don’t know why, I had no plants here.

This was a bad area, lots of rot.

This was a bad area, lots of rot.

Ferns started growing up between boards.

Ferns started growing up between boards.

So out came the rotten boards.

So out came the rotten boards.

A different angle.

A different angle.

The whole lower deck got ripped out and discarded.

The whole lower deck got ripped out and discarded.

The construction guys were able to use some of the redwood boards that I salvaged from the raised beds at the community garden that had to be ripped out when Southern California Edison disallowed raised beds there. I see that I haven’t taken any pictures with the new boards in place. Oh well. It’s raining out.

And that’s why the job isn’t finished. The deck has to be pressure washed, maybe sanded, then sealed and stained. This will require several days of dry weather. We are now in our rainy season. So who knows when that job will be finished. Meanwhile, my potted plants sit in my raised beds and everywhere else in back.

On to the guest bathroom remodel.

Old fixtures on the sink were 33 years old. They needed replacing.

Old fixtures on the sink were 33 years old. They needed replacing.

The toilet went, as did the hopelessly corroded shower doors.

The toilet went, as did the hopelessly corroded shower doors.

That project also ran into issues and isn’t finished. At least the new 1.28 gallon/flush toilet is installed. (Not shown.) I don’t have the after pictures because it really isn’t “after” until the job is done.

And in the midst of construction chaos, the cleaning crew has been here two weeks in a row, trying to turn our pigsty of a home into something cleaner, more organized, and more habitable. I barely have time to get my stuff picked up before they are here to clean again. Little by little, our lives improve.

The sadness that the events at Sandy Hook school have caused ripples far  beyond the borders of Newton, far beyond the borders of Connecticut, and far beyond the borders of our nation. I don’t know what the solution to this madness is, but surely we must start talking about better gun control, and a better way of dealing with the mentally ill.

Meanwhile, those of us still living must go on. We must cope with adversity, and with the frequent reminders of our losses. My garden helps heal my soul. I love to grow food and find beauty in my garden. I celebrate life.

Here is my harvest for this week.

Harvest for week ending December 17, 2012

FRUIT

4 oz Lemon, Meyer

1 lb 7 oz Limes

SUBTOTAL  FRUIT 1 lb 11 oz

VEGETABLES

2 lb 4 oz Beets

1 oz Parsley

SUBTOTAL VEGETABLES 2 lbs 5 oz

TOTAL 4 lbs PRODUCE and 3 eggs

If you had a harvest, or to see what others are harvesting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions.

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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11 Responses to Sandy Hook, deck work, and Harvest Monday, December 17, 2012

  1. Norma Chang says:

    I have been dealing with unexpected loss recently and totally understand when you say your garden helps with the healing. I too spend many hours outdoors and as a result the indoors get neglected. I am hoping to find a balance in the coming new year.
    Sending best wishes your way!

  2. Daphne says:

    I use my garden as therapy too. I really miss it over the winter.

  3. kitsapfg says:

    You have done an amazing job of self healing and therapy. Well done, and keep at it. The deck replacement and bathroom remodel is going to be like a shot of new energy. It’s amazing how those things just ripple through the rest of our living area and lives. Even though the old deck was looking rough though, I have to say it was a very rustic and inviting space you have created.

    • Kitsapfg, thanks. I hope to eventually get my deck back into shape. We have to wait until dry weather to seal it. Then I will need to put the plants back with something under them so they don’t rot the deck again.

  4. Dave says:

    I hear you loud and clear Lou. Gardening has always been a way for me to find peace. I hope we all find healing in the weeks and years to come.

  5. leduesorelle says:

    Thank you for sharing this very personal aspect of your life, it’s something we all can relate to… December is a perfect time for renewal, especially after a 7-year cycle. Looks like you’ll be ready to embrace the New Year!

    • Leduesorelle, seven years is an important number in a lot of cultures. I look forward to moving into the future with a better house and garden both. And even better mental health too. Yay to garden therapy.

  6. Ali says:

    I am happy to hear you are finding peace and renewal in your lovely gardens. I suspect the bathroom reno and cleaning services will also really help with a feeling of renewal and peace.

    We just hosted Christmas dinner, which forced a giant housecleaning. It was painful, but I love the feeling of a clean, tidy house. It isn’t until after it is clean and tidy that I realize the subtle stress the messiness caused me — I feel so much happier with the house clean! I hope you feel the same as things improve. Best wishes for health, happiness and great gardening in the new year!

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