Back Up the Truck

A year ago November, a few weeks after the presidential election, my husband and I planned a day to finally turn a downed tree in our yard into fuel for our wood stove.

While he cranked up the chainsaw to cut the tree into manageable chunks, I hooked up the hitch to my car and went off to rent a log splitter. My mind was churning, my spirit was not in this task. The gray day had a raw chill that matched my mood.

I stood in line with the other Saturday DIYers, and felt somehow, as a woman, I had something to prove. Like I needed to make myself bigger than my medium frame. Everyone around me was friendly and/or sleepy, but I felt on guard. I was glad that I “knew the drill” in this male-dominated store.

I took instructions on how to use the splitter, got it attached to the car, and drove home. Once in the driveway, I realized it would be best to back up to the spot where we’d be doing the work. My husband motioned for me to get out of the car so he could take over. I shook my head, no. 

To be fair, he was only going on what he knew — I’d always deferred to him to “drive the big things” (e.g. moving van) and maneuver heavy equipment. He approached me, confused. “I’ll back it up,” he said, opening the car door. I grabbed the handle and pulled the door shut. “It’s okay,” I said. “I can do it.” There was no way I was getting out of that driver’s seat.

It’s not exactly docking a space shuttle, but I was proud that I had (basically) conquered the life skill that is trailer-backing. It was my sister-in-law who had taken the time to teach me. We were towing a small boat around the playground that is Maine, and with the kids in the back of the car, she pulled into a parking lot and patiently walked me through the ins and outs of trailer maneuvering.

I shimmied that log splitter into perfect position, and then set it up and got it running. My husband nodded, hiding a grin, and we got to work. My goal for the day: not to be the one to stop first. Again, this was all coming from me. But I felt like I had something to prove. Like I was representing all women as sweat poured off me, as I kept going, even when I was tired. Even when the pile of logs seemed to be growing rather than shrinking. I kept working.

I will always be for human beings helping each other out, and a man offering to help a woman is not a bad thing! I’m not saying that. I’m saying: let’s be ready to acknowledge and encourage the power someone else may already hold. Friends, let’s dig deep and remember our own strength. Let’s share what we know, teach one another about it, and spread confidence out into the world.

Stop letting other people back up the trailer for you. You can do it!

 

 

The Marriage Garden

IMG_4658I spent the morning in my pumpkin patch. I’m trying to grow a “biggest” one for a contest both as research and for fun.

It was time to prune vines and clip off some shoots in order to send more nutrients to the most hearty contestants. I was also looking for the main roots, where the vines originated, so I could infuse them with some good organic fertilizer.

It had been several weeks since I’d given the patch attention, so it took me hours to accomplish my tasks. Almost the whole time, a song my dad wrote for his parents on their 50th wedding anniversary was playing in my mind (the words as I remember them, anyway).

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[To the tune of the old hymn: In The Garden]

She works in the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. Then her boyfriend comes, with his two black thumbs, and starts to trim the hedges. And he walks to her, and he talks to her, and he tells her what she did wrong…and the joy they share, as they tarry there, will last their whole life long.

It may have been this image of a couple working (and arguing) together that led me to flesh out the garden analogy when I was asked to speak at my brother-in-law’s wedding. (I know! Huge honor. Super scary.)

I told the bride and groom to be aware that marriage is a lot like a garden. In the beginning, everything is shiny and new. You clear your plot. You put in the best soil. There isn’t a weed in sight. With great excitement, you go pick out all your favorite plants.

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Your rows are straight and full of promise. You’ve heard marriage is hard, but just look at what you’ve already accomplished! In no time you’ll be enjoying a bountiful harvest. Easy.

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The truth is, some years of your marriage will seem easier than others. You’ll plant your seeds, give the garden a few passing glances, and in the fall have a bumper crop. But other years, it seems that despite all your efforts, it’s all you can do to get a few tiny tomatoes to grow. You’ll look around and think, “Man. Am I sick of weeding!”

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Over time, you’ll learn that a steady blend of good soil, gentle rain, and constant care will yield the most consistent results. But most of the time, the work doesn’t look anything like the models you see in the Plow & Hearth catalog. There are no wide brimmed hats and soft kneeling pads. There is dirt-streaked hair, stinky sweat, and manure. Lots of manure.

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However, over the years your soil will become richer and able to handle a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. The garden will grow beyond it’s original plot. You’ll always have plenty enough produce for your own family, with leftovers to share.

Back in my garden this morning, I struggled to find those darn roots. Where had these vines originated, anyway? The temperature had spiked quickly, humidity squelching my desire to stay out there and work. But I knew, like I know with my marriage, that a little extra effort would go a long way.

And funny thing, my patch has only two pumpkins that will likely amount to anything. One is pretty big and hearty already, the other is a bit smaller and is going to need some special care. And there is a point where their two separate vines are twisted and bound so tightly together that there is no way to differentiate who’s getting nutrients from which root.

So I dug into the ground around all the roots I saw, and worked in lots of fertilizer. My hands were filthy. My back hurt. But my pumpkins are worth it. IMG_4789

And marriage is worth it, too. You pay the bills, you share your fears, you schlep the groceries and you clean the toilets. You sit and listen to the “bad day” rants, and get your turn to kvetch, too. You send out little tendrils and cling to each other, hanging on with all you’ve got.

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Then, come harvest time, you’ll get your payback. Your crops will exceed your greatest predictions. Your heart will overflow with the fruits of your labor. And, you’ll have all the energy and motivation you’ll need to do it all again next year.

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