Garden Therapy

Every spring my husband and I partake in balcony gardening. Recently, when the time came to go buy plants and other items, I was in the middle of a tough rheumatoid arthritis flare. I really didn’t feel like getting up, getting ready, and venturing out of the apartment, but I am so glad that I did.

We live in a city apartment and so while we don’t have a yard or land, we have a nice balcony. In previous years our main crop has been sweet and juicy grape tomatoes grown in large pots. One year we went overboard and grew so many there was hardly room to step out on the balcony!

Every year I look forward to our trip to the garden store. We hop on local transit and spend the afternoon wandering through rows of plants, choosing between many colored flowers, and delighting in the scents of tasty herbs.

I love spring and usually find it a hopeful and happy time because my joints feel better in the warmer weather. It’s also so cheering to see more of the sun, feel the grey of winter fade, and see the trees and plants beginning to bloom.

But this spring has been tougher with cold spurts. I had really strong flare that I had trouble kicking and, while I looked forward to the fruits of gardening, it was difficult to get out of the apartment. I kept telling myself that although I wasn’t feeling well, seeing all the plants and flowers would give my spirits a lift.

I was so right—as soon as we approached the garden store I felt a little better. Even the outside is festooned with pretty shrubs and flowering plants! We made our way to pick out baby tomato plants, herbs, and a white and purple striped flower. We even picked up lettuce seeds to grow in a large planter for tasty salad-making.

While my RA didn’t feel instantly better, partaking of a project I enjoy raised my spirits and helped me to remember the growth and renewal that comes with spring. During the next several days, my husband Richard worked on planting and placing the pots in their place on the balcony.

The lettuce seeds quickly started shooting up green tendrils. The tomato plants are small but will gradually grow several feet tall with many branches to bear their fruit. Perhaps I am most excited about a new box we purchased to hang off the balcony railing that we filled with basil, cilantro, and chives. We have other pots with rosemary and mint that we brought inside for the winter.

As my flare faded, I have delighted in our little balcony garden. It gave me hope and encouragement when I was feeling exactly the opposite. It reminded me of the good bounty that Mother Nature can provide, the growing and healing that can return during spring.

When I was a child, gardening was an integral part of family life and I’m happy to carry on the tradition even on our little balcony. It can be a sort of therapy to enjoy nature. And I am still in awe and wonder that a seed can be planted and cared for with a bit of soil and water to grow and develop into amazing plants and fruits. It is a bit magical, isn’t it?

So perhaps this is a reminder that when I care for myself, I can recover and heal. I need a little watering, sun, and rest, but a flare will pass and I will feel better again. Garden therapy works.

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