MamaBlogger365 – Cultivating a Life by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser

Today is my 52nd blog entry, marking one solid year of blog writing. I’m really a novice among other mother bloggers, sort of a baby still, but I feel like I’ve grown a lot since I first started. Even so, I am having the hardest time focusing on writing these days. I suppose this is good because it means there is some possibility that I am getting a life. Not that writing isn’t part of getting a life, mind you, but it does mean (more) time in front of the computer and (more) time trying to think like a smarty pants. And these are both things I have to do for my job so I am trying trying trying to get some stuff in my life that requires me to do otherwise.

I’ve been working in my “garden” trying to plant some perennials but I have this perfectly dreadful clay out there that requires a lot of muscle to work. I’d like to sit gingerly on the ground with a little ergonomic hand shovel and some flourishing potted flowers and smilingly place them in the ground and cover them up just so, like the woman on my Miracle-Gro bag of garden soil. Gardening looks peaceful in her yard. It’s not peaceful in my yard. It’s ass-busting work the labors of which won’t really quite pay off until next season; it’s a lot of 2011 Amber trying to hook up 2012 Amber, who will be very, very grateful but sheesh. And if I’d plant some annuals I’d see some payoff now but I’ll be damned if I’m going to battle that clay only to have it die at the end of the season and never come back. I don’t think so. So perennials it is.

I started looking into amending my clay with compost and the like so that I’ll have better luck with more kinds of flowers, and I did that in some spots. But then I decided to just love the clay, dig the clay, go with the clay (still working on that first one) and find out what will grow in clay unamended. Isn’t there some way of helping something to grow and flourish that doesn’t require trying to make the groundwork be something that it is not and is never going to be, I wondered. Yes there is, as it turns out.

So I went to the greenhouse with my gardening books and my list of clay-friendly perennials and spent time thinking thinking thinking — not in front of a computer and not like a smarty pants. That was the fun part. Then there was that other ass-busting part, rather less fun.

Now if you came to my house you’d see a few pretty impressive displays and several unimpressive, newly planted things which look rather sickly actually, partly because they sat baking in the absurdly hot sun while I wrestled with that stinking clay and partly because once in the ground they were pummeled by rainstorms. (Feast or famine, when it rains it pours, if it’s not one thing it’s another….).

But NEXT year my friends, next year, prepare to be amazed. I was amazed to find that the little daisy I planted last year is a plant the size of Cleveland now. Actually I planted four of them, truth be told, and three of them are MIA but the fourth one — the fourth one is terrific. (You can see it in the photo.) Some flowers are fading as others come in but, as daisies are my favorite flower, I am delighted.

Any of us can see, I’m sure, the metaphors for motherhood here. There are things we plant that die at end of “season” and never come back, it’s true, and we scarcely have the option of avoiding that like we can avoid planting annuals. And so much of it is metaphysical back-breaking work without a clear sense, or any sense, of what will thrive in children since it takes so long to see how things are turning out. And of course plenty of the long-term ideas and principles we plant, which we hope will come back year after year, never quite take root but some of them, like these daisies, really take hold and surprise us.

One of the tricks is learning to work with the soil and the climate we’re in, with moderate amendments perhaps but for the most part trying to work with the materials we’ve got and learning how to cultivate beauty and life from that. My son started high school today so he is on my mind, both in terms of hoping he’ll be able to thrive in that climate and weather it storms, and in terms of hoping I’ve worked the ground in which he is rooted in a way that fosters a vibrant life. Thinking of you today, my son.

BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.

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