Notes From Home: Seeking Sanity

By Trudy Wischemann

The national political news, whether it’s the Supreme Court nominee or NATO or the build up to November’s elections, is stressful enough right now to make a person question their sanity. Regional and local issues aren’t much better: there are major questions that, for our future’s sake, must be attended to. Whether it’s protection of groundwater supplies or maintaining good school boards, an ounce of prevention is cheaper as well as better than a pound of cure, and we need to put our minds and hands to the plow.

But it’s also Fall. The equinox has just slipped past us and the weather has become amiable again. Each year, when the oppressive heat has died out, I have realized that this is the weather I live for. There is temptation to think it will be this way for months, and I have often fallen for it, gotten lazy and just enjoyed being outside. But this year something is telling me to stay awake to the fact that it doesn’t last, any more than the oppressive heat does or the damp fogs of winter. This year, something is telling me to work.

Being an outside-kind of person, I am often torn between my yard work and my writing, which can keep me cloistered inside for hours, losing track of time. Usually my writing work wins, since there’s always hope of making a buck that way and no hope of advancing my career in the yard. I’ve also got that woman-thing, a predetermined, external expectation that my responsibility is to the interior of the house, not the exterior (excuses, excuses.)

Sunday night, however, in the name of filling the green waste can for Monday morning’s garbage truck, I gave myself time off from the computer and the news. I went to work on opening up a small area in the back yard that had become impassable, removing copious dead branches and overzealous live stems from the fruitless mulberry who occupies one half of the enclosed space. I apologized for letting it all go too long as I clipped and trimmed, broke and collected, then hauled my harvest through the small back gate.

In the process, I got to know the tree again, this bumbling giant who has permitted birds to perch and cats to climb in search of perching birds, training kittens how to be cats. I remembered photographing those kittens there, year after year, in the safe crotch of the branching limbs. I remembered collecting a hummingbird nest that had blown down from above. I remembered standing next to it in awe one morning, watching three turkey vultures drying their wings in the tops of the front yard’s trees, feeling myself safe down below. My own personal history in this place was also remembered as I excavated abandoned hoses, cans, pots, salvaged grape stakes and other homestead essentials from beneath the low-hanging branches.

And somehow sanity returned. It’s hard to see how looking squarely in the face of one’s longstanding bad habits can do that, but it did. More important, I think, was the recognition that life goes on, regardless of what we do or fail to do. And most important of all was the pleasure I felt in every cell from reconnecting with Mother Nature and trying to be her servant. That might be the best career move of all.

Trudy Wischemann is a retrograde gardener who writes. You can send her your yard work stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit and leave a comment there.
– This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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