Thursday, September 3, 2015

Please Help Me, I’m Falling

Went out into the yard to put in the cone flower I bought on an impulse yesterday. Cone flowers are perennials, and I am in favor of plants that have the sense to come back on their own.
So I found a spot, added soil from a new bag of potting soil, and put the cone flower in. It looked great, but only time will tell if it does great where I planted it.
Then I planted the dianthus I was given as a gift a few months ago. When I got it, it was in full and glorious bloom, and I enjoyed the blooms and the spicy fragrance the blooms gave off all summer. Then it occurred to me that it was time to get the plant into the soil.
I extended the boundary of one of my flowerbeds. The expansion required moving several bricks, rooting out many buttercups (which set off an earworm of, “Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby, just to let me down …”*), re-stacking the bricks farther out in the yard, dumping soil into the new space, and then planting the dianthus and pressing it into place.
This sort of work leaves me drained. I’d like to blame it on old age, but gardening has always fatigued me. I liked gardening in the abstract, but the real thing has always made me exhausted.
I know people who say that gardening is relaxing. Digging in the soil, connecting with primal feelings, providing for the clan, meditating on the miracle of plant growth, the cycle of life ebbing and flowing, blah de blah blah.
Gardening makes my back hurt and as I get older and my knees and balance get worse, I have to pay attention to every step I take to remain stable. I get one little task done and then I have to sit down and think for several minutes. I have to sit longer when I do things like spend half an hour making space between plants and carefully placing a drip hose in a flowerbed, only to learn when I go to attach the garden hose that I’ve put the drip hose in backwards and it has to be taken out and put in again in the other direction.
So, anyway, I sit and think. Unfortunately that’s when I see more things that need doing, like pruning back the dusty miller which has gone leggy again.
SO, today I got the cone flower planted, and pulled zillions of buttercups (“… and then worst of all, you never call, baby, when you say you will, but I love you still …”*) and a couple of armfuls of non-blooming crocosmia, and got the new bed space created and the dianthus planted, AND the dusty miller pruned back. I was standing up before going to turn on the water to the drip hose, and that’s when I fell.
Fighting a fall is usually a bad idea – stiff, flailing body parts can get whacked but good on obstacles like furniture or the floor. Outdoors, I’ve learned to relax and tuck and roll when I realize that I am going down, so I don’t usually get hurt. That’s what I did today. The dry ground was hard, but I didn’t break anything.
I lay there for a while collecting my thoughts and doing an inventory of parts, another thing I’ve learned to do after falling, and decided I was all right and would try getting up. I rolled over and used my basic “toddler standing up” technique. I get on all fours, then put one foot on the ground and push off with the other leg and both hands, rising butt first like the sun coming up over the Cascades. Awkward, not exactly flattering to the ego, but I do end up on my feet again.
I fear falls more the older I get. My balance and control have improved quite a bit since I’ve been going to water walking classes at the Athletic Club. I can feel the improvement in my core strength. I’ve gone from “none” to “some.” So that helps a bit, but I have to be careful.
When my mother was in her eighties she frequently said, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” I am getting closer to understanding the full meaning of that phrase. Tomorrow morning when I wake up and feel the soreness in every muscle and ligament that was tweaked when I fell over today, I’ll understand it even more.

*Thanks and a tip o’ the hat to Mike d’Abo and Tony Macaulay, authors of the Buttercup song, and The Foundations, who had a hit with it in 1969.

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