Is Gardening Your Glittery Unicorn?



Yesterday I made this quick collage for my personal Facebook page because 1) I looked ridiculous and 2) it let me put off actually going outside and battling with the blackberries for a couple of minutes. (I won yesterday, by the way).

But it did get me thinking—maybe yard work really is that magical, glittery, rainbow-crapping unicorn of a wellness option which those who are lucky enough to have keep overlooking. Emphasis on “lucky enough to have” because I realize a lot of people are living the apartment or condo life with no land to tend. Others might have such newly sodded, fresh off the market properties that the idea of “yard work” is deadheading a couple of peonies each week.

When we bought a piece of overgrown, parceled-out slice of old dairy farm land, I’m talking serious land. It might be small, but it’s still feral and it does not want to be tamed. Oh, and after building a freaking house, we have zero dollars left for hardcore landscaping. So for everyone recommending that we hire a landscaper, we’d love to. You can donate that $10,000 in large bills if that’s easier.

Work / Out

If you were asked to describe your ideal workout, not in just actions but holistically, what would it look like? It would likely feed your physical, emotional, spiritual and emotional needs. Your heart rate would go up, sure, and your strength would be challenged. Ideally, you’d be outside soaking up some much-needed fresh air and Vitamin D, cut with freshly applied sunscreen. In the end, you’d feel a great sense of catharsis and achievement. You’d probably be sweaty, clearer-headed and tired, but happier and more at peace than you were when you started.

Well. It turns out yard work, specifically pulling blackberry brambles, provides all of this. It’s the workout that really doesn’t feel like a workout but it does have teeth and bites back. It also has very obvious results. It’s a nurturing project, and two hours feel like ten minutes. You sweat, you bleed (I’m still working on putting together the ultimate thorn-proof outfit for this, but these suckers have stuck solidly into metal, so …), and you’re faced with mental and physical challenges. Like, how the hell do you get to that very white, very dead, huge primary stalk that you can just tell will pluck out of the ground with ease? There’s nothing more satisfying than when you finally get to it.

Go Out and Play

I’ve always been a big fan of simply going outside, and preferably in nature. I need it. When I lived in downtown Portland, I mapped out my own personal urban hike that I loved. It took me from downtown through the International Rose Test Garden to a bark chip trail that peeked over the Japanese Gardens, and into the Hoyt Arboretum. On my way back, I passed a playground on a west hill peak that overlooked the city. There was one swingset with a particularly wide seat. If time allowed, I would always treat myself to a swing at this almost-always deserted but beautiful hilltop. Swinging, by the way, is also an awesome outdoor workout.

Now, living in a quickly growing chunk of suburbia that still toes the line between the suburbs and rural farmland, I’ve discovered a little wooded trail that I include in my hour-long walks. The forest, the woods, they heal. There’s something in humans that crave it and need it. Unfortunately, we aren’t all able to easily access it.

However, if we live in a safe neighborhood or can get to one, we all have access to simply being outside. It doesn’t have to be gardening or hiking. It can be playing hop scotch with your kids at a tucked away park, cycling, skateboarding, or, hell, even Pokemon Go. You just go.

Oh, and if you want to pull blackberries in my front yard, have at it.


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