My oasis of calm is my medium sized paved back garden. The growth, regrowth and splash of life in the blooming colours remind me of my life lived to the midlife phase. My garden has been a milestone in my life. It was neglected when we moved into our home. A few plants here and there did the trick of making it look respectable.
Spaces assume different identities through time.
Once, my daughter played in this garden. The paving stones were her hopscotch markers. Little feet ran up and down those stones. Her friends loved the fact that they could do whatever they wanted out there without worrying about being told off for making a mess. Then my daughter grew up. The garden didn’t hold her attention anymore. The noise of children’s laughter gone. I hardly had the energy or interest to tend to it. Soon after, It became a barren land of brownness.
The garden had become mine with my daughter’s reaching of age but I didn’t realise it. I didn’t physically and emotionally reclaim it with any meaning from the memories of yesteryear till my midlife crisis struck. Needing somewhere to escape to I started to notice this neglected space sitting in my backyard. The garden became somewhere to go to away from the demands of life. A place of silence running in parallel, literally, from the busyness of life on the main road situated on the other side of my home.
It has rescued me a number of times in my midlife and, especially, during lockdown. I sit there and listen to a symphony of nature play. The singing birds, rustling of leaves in the wind and squirrels running up and down the drainpipes squealing are the suburban sounds of music. They are a welcome respite from news on the Coronavirus and Zoom calls.
Shaping my garden to suit my taste has gradually taught me that I still have autonomy in my life. As one gets older, one starts to feel as if life has passed by without permission. In my garden, I am free to do as I please. Going to the local garden centre is a naughty indulgence in midlife. I am reminded of my father who suddenly took to gardening in his 40s. I could not understand why this man who lived for work overnight became active in our once neglected garden. I get it now. It’s funny how it takes to midlife to appreciate and understand the things your parents did.
According to this author, gardens experience a midlife crisis too in the sense of lying neglected before a gardener comes along and revamps it. This is much like human beings with the difference being that we have to rescue ourselves, no one else is going to do it. The element of ‘rescue’ speaks volumes about gardening being a great soother for the midlife crisis. Also, the sheer physical effort involved with digging, potting, watering and clearing weeds on a regular basis is a recommended panacea for physical activity.
While I recognise that I am privileged to have a back garden, indoor potting plants offer the same sense of delight. You don’t need ‘green fingers’ either. That is a myth. Water the plants regularly and they will thrive. I draw an analogy between this and how the midlife needs constant self-care and nourishing. A garden is a year on year joy that keeps giving. Use the same philosophy in your midlife and for your midlife crisis.