I’ve been a bit down in the dumps this last week, entertained by garbage mind. Well, maybe not crouched in the absolute bottom of the pit. More like I stood on the edge of the dump, toes hanging over, wondering if I should just go ahead, jump in and wallow around a bit. Maybe emerge sprinkled with coffee grounds, decorated with potato peels, a rotten cantaloupe shell for a hat.
In the movie, Scarlet O’Hara said, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” I decided I would think about it today. I generally don’t get too upset when today looks like doom and gloom. I know that in the morning I will have a different outlook. As a friend of mine says, “Tomorrow will be different; maybe not better, but different.” I’ll take different.
Work generally gets me out of any slump. Work is my best medicine. But I found myself toeing the pitcher’s mound in some sort of World Series of Worry. A task I should have knocked out in an hour, took all day. I would pick up a project, set it down and wander out into the yard, seduced by the warm sunshine.
Finally I quit pushing against the river’s flow, tossed worry out the window, crawled out of my gloom. I phoned my ailing friends, told them how much their friendship means to me, how I want to see them home and healthy. I went to breakfast with Bill and Mary John. I harvested the rest of my tomatoes. They lie scattered across my kitchen table in varied shades of green. I took baskets of garden produce to Peg and Karl. I dug up some of my snow-on-the-mountain, and with a shovel and the hardy plants, drove across town to my cousin’s place and planted them for her.
My fruit trees need pruning. I went to my garden shed, found my whicker-whacker and my snipper-snapper, put them in my wheel barrow and set out to trim trees. I wheeled over to my sand cherry. I couldn’t do it. “Maybe next spring,” I whispered. “Let’s see what kind of winter we have.”
I want my lilacs along the fence to spread their branches and fill in the space, so I rolled past them and parked my wheel barrow by the currants. They definitely should be trimmed back. I snipped off two “dead” branches, saw that they weren’t really dead. I heard the bush cry out in pain. I felt awful. I apologized and decided to wait, to see how the currants wintered. Moved on to the choke-cherries, stood in front of one bush that desperately needs to be shaped. Stood there five minutes. I couldn’t do it. Gave up, put away my tools.
These bushes have become my friends and right now, I simply cannot chop away at my friends. Winter is coming, bringing with it a long dormancy. Maybe my young bushes will be stronger for another season of full growth. I know that in my imagination I am making up a false connection between my human friends and my fruit-tree friends. No matter.
The next day Shirley, Bev and I drove to Lewistown for lunch, expecting an opulent seafood meal. Never trust the food editor of a rival newspaper. (Rule of thumb: Never order seafood inland. Never order beef on the coast.) We poked around some unique stores on Main Street. On the way home we stopped at Slippery Ann on the CMR Wildlife Refuge to take in the annual gathering of the elk, all the bugling and prancing and sniffing and flirting. It’s like a Saturday night dance at a country western bar. A few hours of elk watching and we had worked up an appetite for dinner. Since we were close, we continued on to Zortman for a burger at the bar.
In jigs and jogs I’ve nudged myself away from the garbage pit of despair. I’ll keep telling my friends I love them, tell them how much I care. My shop work will wait. Today I’ll grab the warm sunshine. Tomorrow I’ll get back to work.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)