Monday, March 31, 2008

Fallow Land

It is March 31st. By this time last year I had had two surgeries related to the breast cancer with which I had been diagnosed on Wednesday, February 14th, one week before Ash Wednesday of 2007.

The first surgery was a lumpectomy, with removal of some lymph nodes from my underarm. The second surgery was to implant a port-a-cath to permit chemo therapy. During that surgery my surgeon re-entered the site of the lumpectomy to take an extra excision, for a wider margin of safety. The surgeries were a success. On April 30th I began chemo treatments. They lasted through August. Radiation therapy lasted into November.

In January I had decided to have Newlin cut me some garden plots in the until-then virgin yard of our rental house. The surgeries left me restricted in movement and strength. But I was determined to have a zinnia garden, and to grow tomatoes, beans, eggplant and peppers. So in March I started seeds.

After the ground had warmed up, and Newlin had cut the garden plots, I planted out the seedlings. By then I was well into chemo treatments. I was sick much of the time. I kept working, although not as much as usual. I presided at Sunday worship, missing two Sundays over the nine months of treatment. But, as weak, and as nauseated as I was, I got those seedlings into the ground, and into the nine containers I prepared for smaller plants.

And last of all, I sowed a ton of zinnia seeds, mixed with cosmo and poppy seeds, on a triangular plot, with nasturtium and cardinal flower seeds against the fence. On one corner near the fence I planted out asclepias seedlings – related to milkweed but with yellow flowers. The zinnias took over. But that was fine with me. The riot of color made the whole thing worthwhile – the surgeries, the sickness, the pain, the stiffness and loss of motion.

Today is March 31st. I have started no seeds this year. I’m thinking I will buy plants for my tomatoes and peppers, and forget the eggplant, which proved way too prolific. The zinnias will be sowed directly into the garden. No need to start them.

Meanwhile, two of the three plots lie fallow. In the third, in the front yard, the lavender has survived the winter. The big sage plant, which we have dug up and transplanted I don’t remember how many times as we moved from one place to another, has survived the winter. The rosemary did not. I’m waiting to see if any of the other plants have wintered over. I try not to check every day ( ! ) but after the winter, by the time we have had our first warm up I’m ready for signs of new life.

I’ve also decided to make one of the beds, the largest one, an herb garden. I’ll buy plants to put in there, and at the back of the bed, against the fence, or along the north edge, is where I’ll put in my vegetables, just a couple of plants. This year I’m more into herbs and flowers.

The surgeries are over. The chemo and radiation are over. The needle biopsy, the MRI’s, the CAT scans, the horrible, medieval prep for the first surgery with a needle of radioactive material placed directly through the tip of my left nipple and marker needles placed either side of the offending tumor while under mammogram compression are all over. The mammogram at the beginning of this month was “normal”. “See you next year!” they said.

But, you know, writing about last year, going over the calendar, seeing the appointments there, has made me a little sick. I wonder how many gardens it will take before this past year is just a distant memory.
Meanwhile, I wait for the nurseries to put out their seedlings, and their zinnia seed packets. I wait for planting time, and this year’s garden. And at the same time, I enjoy the cleanness of those fallow garden plots, stripped and raked over, waiting, waiting, waiting.

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