Column, Funologist

Holding the perimeter: Part 1


I mowed the lawn today. The mower choked its way slowly through the chest-high grass, hidden saplings, and lush wildflowers. 

If left unattended for an entire summer, our lawn’s perimeter would disappear. Within five summers, our homemade house would be camouflaged by the surrounding forest. Mother nature is always busy filling in the holes.

Forty-two years ago, when my husband and I were first married, we spent every weekend driving around northern Vermont looking for land to buy. When the apartment building we were living in sold, we were told by the new owners that the rent would double. Effective immediately. 

We were having trouble making the rent before the building sold.

Unable to find an affordable apartment, we drove to Sears and bought a family-sized tent. We secretly stashed our belongings in the dirt basement of the apartment building and hoped someday we could reclaim them. 

One month before our second child was born, we pitched our tent in a friend’s yard in the mountains and moved outdoors. Homeless camping. 

We lived outdoors that summer, then moved to a relative’s house while they were living elsewhere.

A year later, we saw an ad for two acres of land in Western Vermont that had a small garage and a burnt-down house on it for $12,000. Excited, we packed the kids in the car and drove across the state to meet with the local realtor.

Abandoned after the fire, the property had neck-high grass and all the remains of the burnt-down house still on it. It was a mess.

But there was a driveway, deeded well water, a septic system, and the main object of our attention; a small, old garage with no running water. We envisioned being able to live temporarily in the garage while we rebuilt.

As rough as it was, we were thrilled at the thought of settling on a piece of land we could call our own. Though we had no tools, money, or building experience, our youthful spirit and strength kept us focused on the positives.

Cleaning up the remains of the burnt-down house was a daunting task to do by hand. It took us two years. Very slowly, with a pickaxe, shovel, wheelbarrow, and rake, we began to create a narrow strip of lawn.

Holding the lawn’s perimeter became my domain. When I asked my husband to help me mow, he did a bad job of it. Annoyed and disinterested, he left strips of unmowed grass and swung wide around obstacles rather than take the time to move them.  He was a lazy landscaper.  Instead, he was singlemindedly focused on teaching himself to build a house. 

Fair enough. 

While taming the lawn and taking on the landscaping tasks, I realized that the land surrounding me provided all the fitness I needed. Mother Nature is my close neighbor on all sides. 

Every spring I plan numerous large and small outdoor projects. Mowing, stonework, tree cutting, bucking, and stacking of firewood, provide me with all the daily movement I need for strength and fitness.

 If I am willing to see it as such (and I am), my work is my play, and vise versa. I have all the out-the-door fitness I need. And right in my own backyard.

Any time I am in a negative mood, or have a boo-boo or injury, my projects help me regain wellness while I steadily make progress on my projects. Problem solving my own physical therapy is something I have come to love because I have learned to trust myself. 

Holding the perimeter on my health isn’t someone else’s job. It is mine. Happily.

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