Gardens do heal...

Still pondering the beauty, and from American eyes and culture, the fascinating quixotic nature of Japan - its people and culture. How can they exist in such closely packed throngs, whether it is to visit Nara, or to visit a major temple garden? I did notice that eye contact is almost nonexistent. Also, I learned from a friend who has spent more than 34 years visiting Japan that they have a word - garansuru - which translated for us means "to put up with." To watch their behavior as they negotiate through the crowds is an impressive study in body language and manners.

I have needed to rely on garansuru these past three weeks due to a medical crisis here at home that occurred only 48 hours after my return. Dealing with the medical/insurance industry, where "health" and "care" are in scant supply, has been an utterly exhausting experience, as many of you already know and probably only too well.

During this surreal adventure there have been some amazing people who have known how to reach out with kindness and wisdom. I salute them with tears of gratitude. The uninformed obstructionists I hope to soon forget.

After you make the 911 call, life becomes a blur. The adrenalin is high, but reality moves at a slow, bureaucratic pace. Days pass, and so do all the petty conflicts/annoyances that had consumed your time. Now there is not time for anything but to stay on heavily as an advocate, gently but persuasively wringing out of the system some modicum of care and knowledge. And finally, there is the time when the pressure subsides for a moment or a day, or, if lucky, a weekend.

With this fresh moment of relief, I lectured myself - go to the garden - but the dishes/laundry/bills/e-mails/ripening leftovers had taken on mythic proportions. Somehow, I left them behind.

Straightening and raking and pulling gigantic dandelion roots out of the soft, wet soil, the hours flew by. I felt such little strength, but I kept bending down and lifting and filling the yard waste cans. Off with the huge broken branch of the rhododendron, caught by the gurney several days before. Deadheading the heucheras that had unfurled their delicate blossoms weeks ago. Cutting back the rampant, almost tropical growth that had obscured some key paths. Fussing and fussing, nitpicking some details, the late afternoon/early evening light told me that dinnertime had passed and it was getting on towards a late-night supper.

There was one tiresome pickup chore (old rhododendron leaves) that still needed/should be done. A few deep breaths and I plunged into the thicket and the task. Suddenly, I smelled Japan. It was the damp earth, the ferns, perhaps the maple trees above.

The garden, once again, surprised me, enchanted me, and healed my troubled soul. I slept like a babe that night, filled with a strength I had known before - the garden's gift to us.

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