Quirky habits can be calming

One of my weekly rituals is a visit from editor Laurie Kavenaugh, who asks “for a tease” about what I’ll write for the Friday column. She prints the tease in Thursday’s newspaper.
Laurie is a plant-lover. If we didn’t need to check in once a week, I’m confident we’d talk about plants near the jugs of bad coffee in the lunch room.
This way, talking about our passion counts as work time.
Having someone to tease is helpful. Talking out loud helps to coordinate coherent thoughts. Although I’m trying to stop talking out loud when I’m alone and in public.
This week, ideas for a weekly garden chat were hard to put into words.
The only “gardening” I’ve completed recently is to add dozens of paper bookmarks to the Baker Creek seed catalog.
“It’s your turn to give me inspiration,” I told the tease temptress.
She and her husband have an ongoing disagreement about how many plants they should have in their yard, Laurie teased.
Her husband likes to keep things lush, or in Laurie’s view, like a jungle. There are so many plants, she can’t see where one begins and four others end.
It’s not her imagination that the yard is busy. People wander down the street and stop to tell her husband how lovely the yard is, which continues him for another six months on his mania.
“Does he just keep buying plants?” I asked.
Yes, Laurie continued. He buys spindly, last-leg plants from the “we’re about to die” plant rack, nurses them back to life, then crams them into the yard.
The watering takes a toll as well, and he’ll stand out with the hose until sunlight fades.
Laurie, on the other hand, would prefer things more neat and orderly, so that each plant could be appreciated on its own.
It makes sense that a gardener would like to see things grow. And if you really love gardening, you would love to see a lot of things grow.
I thought of my friend Richard. He began, most likely innocently, with a few potted plants. As one outgrew a container, he diligently divided. He would come across something dead and dying, nurture it, and it would grow …
Several years after Richard moved to a “new house,” I visited and could barely see the house. He had so many plants, you could barely see your feet when you walked down the “garden path.” Small children could have wandered in while playing hide-and-go-seek and emerged in time to attend college.
How do you know when something has become a problem in your life? When it begins to affect your relationships with others.
Apparently, Richard’s sweetie didn’t mind that he stood, contemplatively, for hours, holding a garden hose.
I had another friend, Kevin, who loved to rake. Fall was one of his favorite seasons. The wind came and he could rake again. Something about the monotony, and the movement, being outside, helped him to relax.
As for Laurie’s husband. She mentioned they have a perfectly good automatic watering system, but her hose-friendly husband doesn’t think it reaches all the plants as well as watering by hand.
“He probably just likes watering,” I teased Laurie.
“That’s his quiet, relaxation time.”
Yes, she said, making the point with her index finger.
“Stop your complaining,” I said. “He’s chilling out; it’s not hurting anything.”
“I have it,” I told Laurie. “I have your column topic for next week: Women who should stop complaining about their husbands’ perfectly acceptable quirks.”

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