Friday, September 12, 2014


I've been catching up with some photo uploading on to Flickr. Some people use their Flickr accounts to showcase their best photography, others like me use it for several purposes: to share photos, a back-up, and a record of progress - be it the life of a child, renovation of a boat or in my case the gradual development of a garden.

Many's the time I've looked back and wished I'd taken photos of all the spots that used to be over-grown and thriving on neglect. Unfortunately the plants that tend to thrive through neglect aren't usually the ones you want to have an abundance of, if any of it. But it didn't occur to to me back then to photograph the unlovely and unwanted, it was only after the transformation began in earnest did I think to start taking 'before' pictures as well as 'after' ones.

Looking back through the album of garden updates I see certain areas of the garden cleared of weeds and then gradually slip back to a more overgrown state again, never quite as bad, and much more easily cleared again. Sometimes the offending plants aren't ones that would normally be classed as weeds but over enthusiastic garden plants who don't want to be contained. A weed, after all, is simply a plant in the wrong place.

Something I've got into the habit of photographing is the rather unlovely green waste pile, partly because it is incredibly satisfying to take a couple of trailer loads to the tip and see the pile shrink. But it all too quickly grows again hence the need for a reminder! This pile is made up of the stuff that won't compost easily and any invasives we really don't want to put back in the garden. Next to it is the pile of stuff to be mulched and re-used on the paths, or if big enough chopped up for firewood. Being able to look back on old photos and remind myself of just how much has been dealt with and disposed of over time is quite satisfying.

As part of the treatment for my health problems I've been going to counselling for the last few months. When giving my counselor an overview of my life to date early on in the piece I pointed out I'd been to counselling before, after my marriage break up, and I'd dealt with a lot of stuff then. 'When was that?' she asked. 'Oh from sometime in 1998, through to about the end of 2000 I think' I replied suddenly realising that actually I wasn't entirely sure, but I knew I'd just stopped going by the time Colette died, but which year was that??? I was busy drifting off in my own little world trying to figure out just 'when' it had been, when I was broken out of my reverie by it being pointed out that I'd lived through 14yrs of life since then, and not exactly an uneventful 14yrs either.


Those bits of garden you weed and get them looking all lovely and then they suffer again when you neglect them whilst you focus on something else? Yup. Those bits.

The good news is that as with gardening the hard work you put in earlier does pay off and sorting out the mess is a lot quicker the second time.

I wonder if this is why I like to look back at those piles of garden waste as a measure of progress. Seeing the 'problems' all lumped together rather than spread out around the place makes you appreciate better just how much crap there is to deal with even though a quick glance around doesn't reveal anything like the depth of the issue. (Those convovulous roots are a right pain to get out, and they grow back if you leave so much as an inch and turn your back on them.) Seeing the pile grow and shrink over time proves to me that a lot of work has been done, even when it doesn't look like it at times. It is also a reminder that life isn't static, and just because you've dealt with something once doesn't mean you won't have to do it again. To be quite honest I'm getting sick of pulling out canna lilies but if I don't keep doing it they'll take over and smother everything else in their path, except the convovulous of course!

I remember thinking back whenever-it-was that having gone to counselling and found it really useful I wouldn't shy away from going back again in the future and I'd be really positive about it as a tool for coping with life if anyone asked me. Yet when it was suggested again this year all my old reluctance had slipped back when I wasn't looking. However I do know it is helping, I am seeing patterns in my life that I'd never quite joined the dots up about before. So in theory I can either avoid certain things happening again, or at least go into a situation better prepared for it. In theory anyway, there's a huge part of me that is thinking up 'Yeah, right...' Tui ads in response to that idea, but hey who knows, it might just work!

There are times when the only way to tidy a cupboard is to empty everything out and start again, or clear a patch of land and replant it. We can't dispose of the clutter of life experience quite so easily, but we can take things out and have a good look at them from a different angle; and that is so often when the connections and patterns start to show; when the things that really don't need to be right in front of you all the time shaping your responses to the world can be acknowledged, dusted off, and put somewhere out of the way to make room for more positive influences to grow. Unfortunately large scale clear-outs require energy, and when you've got less to spare is usually when the clear-out is needed most. 

Energy can't move when life is too cluttered, and it might not just be cluttered with material 'stuff' or doing too much. I thought that last year where life was much simpler than it had been and I had space to focus on some of the things I wanted to be doing in life, it would be what I needed to find a new direction. But whilst I was busy adding things in to life, I wasn't doing anything about clearing out the 'clutter' inside of me as I was too busy literally clearing out the clutter in the house and garage and getting on top of the weeds in the garden! It took getting really quite ill to get me to stop and take stock of life on a different level.

It is harder to document piles of emotional clutter than it is piles of green waste in a way that can be looked back on to appreciate progress later, or to bolster you on those days when it feels like no matter how hard you work at it you feel like you're getting nowhere. So this post is as much a reminder to myself as anything that yes, progress is being made, but also that I need to keep working on these things otherwise life gets out of hand again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thankyou Anna for an incredibly helpful post (yet again!)