Gardens hold more than dirt and plants. They hold power. They heal.

Gardens foster community and relationships and awaken the senses while they provide hope and teach patience and fortitude.

Gardens contribute to our quality of life whether we're working in them or sitting back and taking them in.

Here we will dig deep and expose what all gardens hold, teach and reveal.
Ode to the Blues

(I've got the blue-collared blues and I'm happy)

by Heather Ford-Helgeson

I have spent the last few months working hard in the great outdoors. My soft body with its desk-chair sized backside and atrophied arms initially shook after hours of shoveling mulch into wheelbarrows and moving it distances that appeared to elongate with each haul. Bugs have taken good sized chunks of my tender skin. I've been attacked by raspberry and barberry bushes galore -- my legs and arms illustrate that story with a labyrinth of scrapes and scratches. Many a spider, including a couple the approximate size of a Smart car, have sauntered over my arms completely ignoring my screams. Once, a snake slithered out from under my hand in a rock garden and didn't even stop to see if I was indeed having a heart attack or just overacting.

It has been awesome. I mean that, from the top of my sunburned scalp to the tips of my bruised toes.

I quit a job I loved before this gardening adventure. I loved the work but management was the worst I've had in almost two decades. It broke my heart to leave but I had to. I had to for the sake of my health and my family. If it weren’t for some fabulous friends I made on the job and the relationships I fostered with clients, I’m quite certain I would have lost it more than I did. And I did lose it. I completely lost my bearings and even threw up a couple of times while at work. Many days I couldn't eat without gagging until after 5pm because I was so tense. Even when I was home my mind was still at work, trying to figure out how to fix the situation. My toddler got less and less time with me even when I was right in front of her. I've spent years with previous jobs that were difficult. I can't stand giving up and I'm a bit of a Pollyanna but within five months I had to be done. For my sake and my family's sake. The following morning after my last day I ate a huge breakfast because I wanted to eat, for the first morning in months, and I smiled while I ate. I came back to myself so fast I knew I had done the right thing.

So here I am in the blue-collared zone and feeling very fortunate for it. The beauty of working with your muscles, of sweating, of starting and completing a task within a day and feeling your day’s work in every fiber of your being is a beautiful thing. I will go back to the white-collar world because there are parts of me that I want to utilize that I cannot in the labor world. However, I know the value, physically and spiritually, of a hard day’s work and I will encourage my daughter and others to not count it out as a life-long pursuit.

Working within your field of bliss is great if you can find it, but what if your bliss cannot pay the bills? Writing, singing, playing an instrument, painting, creating sculptures from old tin cans, some make a living from these things, many more cannot. But money should not be the divining rod to success, happiness and fulfillment should. Working a day in the elements, using the body instead of draining the mind, leaves enough creative energy  to pursue hobbies with gusto and fortitude.

What if you want to write a novel but find your desk-job is draining your will to create? A seasonal blue-collared job may be the answer. Many pay well so you could work from early spring to late fall, set aside as much in savings as you can to get you through the winter months while you pursue your art ten-fold. Yes, it's a stretch, yes, there are many factors to consider (i.e. health care) but with some planning you may be able to make it work and then won't you be proud of you?

Blue or white, it doesn't matter, as long as there is fulfillment, contentment, dare I say even bliss, everyday. If a job takes all the color out of our lives, as mine was doing, then something has got to change. Most of us need to work and we should be grateful for our work, but we do not need to be miserable.

Blue can be the perfect color and you'll never know unless you try it on.