If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I have been gardening. Gardening is difficult territory for me. I used to love it and be good at it. Then I moved from a house to a flat and gave my tools to my sister, who had a house with a garden. When, after some bad life choices, I moved back into a house with only my clothes, (most of which I was too fat to fit into), my books and an armchair, she did not return the favour. I know that gifts are not given with bungee cords attached, but I felt let down nonetheless.

The bad life choice also loved gardening but he was very bad at it. He believed that if you wanted to transplant seedlings, you could pull them all up and leave them to dry in the sun while you wandered off and did something else, before putting them back into the good earth. He wondered why nothing grew in our garden. Any attempt by me to explain how things could be done differently was just proof that women were uppity creatures who should know their place. It took me far too long to realise that my place was without him.

I have been in my own house for nearly three years. Because of those bad life choices I have not been financially able to go to a garden centre and re-equip myself. So, slowly over this time I have accumulated garden tools from Emmaus. You do not walk into Emmaus with a shopping list. You go and see what treasures are there on any given Saturday.

My new, old tools are substantial, and rusty, and cost less than a fiver each. I now have a hoe, a rake, a spade, a shovel and a hefty fork. The weeds know their time is short.

I like their continuity. Some days I think it would be lovely to have been able to go out with a shopping list and a trolley, and come back and fill my shed with New. But, when I venture with fear into the garden to dig up the weeds, I like that my tools were held in someone else’s hand first.

Gardening is important to me, though you would not believe it if you looked over the fence. I am not used to freedom. I am good at digging up what should not be there, but the idea that I can positively choose what to grow in what space is, on some days, terrifying. Putting plants in the ground is going to be my first step towards making my own choices.

In her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson writes about her recovery from a suicide attempt.

“What made it possible was the sanity of the book in the mornings and the steadiness of gardening in the spring and summer evenings. Planting cabbages and beans is good for you. Creative work is good for you.”

I am not writing the book yet. That will come.

But this is a post about gardening lurking in what is supposed to be a blog about motorcycling. So I will add that for the first time since passing my test, I rode this week in jeans and jacket bought off-the-peg from the women’s half of the room. (Actually, I didn’t buy the jacket. It has been donated for an adventure yet to come.) The right tools for the job make life more comfortable.



Filed under Introspection

3 responses to “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  1. Paul Belcher

    I find both my gardening and my motorcycling very theraputic when the black dog returns home! both I believe add taste to life that would be otherwise lacking.

  2. I don't garden (enough) or motorcycle (at all), but I can identify with the feelings. Any sort of creative work can help to heal a damaged self.

  3. HL:

    Emmanus looks like a good place to find “stuff”. We do have some Thrift & 2nd hand shops but I have stopped myself from going in, just to bring more junque home.

    I don't profess to be a gardiner, everything I touch turns to dust. Yes, even cactus plants

    There is just something about older gardening implements that stand the test of time, and keep on working.

    Riding the Wet Coast

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