By Lila Johnson, Mill Creek resident, April 28, 2020.
It is not often I write about dirt. I am referring to soil, earth, loam; you know, the stuff gardens are made of, not the scandalous gossipy stuff.
But first a bit of background: I grew up in the 1950’s observing my Mom tend our Ballard-area yard. Dad mowed the lawn, but she did most everything else to create a beautiful garden. By age ten I could identify most of her favorite flowers and had a clue whether they preferred sun or shade: geraniums, begonias, petunias, sweet peas, jasmine, fuchsias, Passion flower, forsythia, and even nasturtiums.
I am not an expert gardener, but the seed was planted early. In my teens, Mom acquired a small greenhouse where she “wintered over” plants and took geranium cuttings in the fall and rooted them in pots until May. In the spring, she sold some of the plants to neighbors to help pay for the cost of heating her “Gazebo” and the rest went into our own yard.
I watched her but I did not get involved, but to this day I have a love of flowers and an appreciation for delightful gardens. My own yard was on a recent Mill Creek Garden Tour, so something rubbed off on me! I give great homage to my Mother who worked full time and loved to garden for relaxation while creating a pleasant place for family to hang out.
On to the dirt. I don’t know exactly when it occurred, but for many, many years I have been aware that working in the dirt, removing weeds, seeing earthworms, planting flowers, and feeling the soil move between my fingers is one of the most soothing, satisfying feelings. Yes, I even love those squiggly worms as I am sure they are telling me, “Hey, this is great, rich dirt! Good job Lila.” Well more appropriately, “Good job, Dave,” my dear husband who does the heavy gardening jobs and allows my creativity and little bit of knowledge to determine what goes where and what color it will be.
When I plant each spring, I do not wear gloves, I just love the feel of the tender roots and dirt coming together and anticipating the prospect of their growth. It gives me joy! Don’t worry, my tetanus shot is current, but my fingernails need help.
My story about nothing corroborates what most gardeners will tell you: gardening is soothing to the soul. Out in the yard I don’t worry about anything, not even a corona virus and I lose all track of time. My creative juices flow choosing colors to plant together; I feel like an artist and it is much easier than drawing or painting. After a day in the garden, my old muscles ache, but it is a good kind of ache, one that says, “I accomplished something and had fun doing it.”
In this “sheltering in place” era, I get the inkling more people in our neighborhoods are pulling weeds, removing moss, power washing driveways, laying down bark and even planting flowers. I am from a generation taught to take pride in how your yard looked. Plus, my Dad always claimed a well-kept yard added to the value of our home should we ever wish to sell it.
I encourage you to discover how beneficial to mind and body working in the dirt can be. It is not nothing when gardening provides a sense of hope and joy. One of my favorite quotes comes from Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Get in the dirt for a hopeful tomorrow; and if you find earthworms, your soil is probably good!
Where it began in my Mom's greenhouse 1960 - "The Gazebo.” Photo courtesy of Lila Johnson.