Wendy Woolfson

What I Need To Do

I was having a conversation with someone today about how I manage to cope with my diagnosis and staying so positive, and I found it an interesting question to respond to because there are various elements to it. There are so many parts that it’s hard to pin it down as to what it is that works. It’s different from one day to the next although I do think what’s at the heart of it is, that in the first place, I found peace through therapy. Therapy really sorted my demons out, got rid of the demanding and problematic stuff, and set me free. I also have strong spiritual beliefs about who I am which is always a reminder about my place on this planet and what I’m here to do, which is to be loving, and keep the peace, in my own small way.

But to be honest it’s still always going to come back to my art and gardening, my two foundations for mindful activity that keep my head right. When I sit down at my desk to craft and make one of my junk journals, it’s with a sigh of relief and a sense of excitement as I look around at the sweetie shop of delights that I have surrounding me: inks, paints, vintage papers, stamps, cutters, pens, pencils, sprays, pastes, scraps, jewels, beads, buttons, stencils, books, magazines, papers, scissors, various tools, gold leaf, stickers, glues, it goes on, and I love it! I can’t wait to dip in and get started. These days though I have to be patient because an awful lot of days I’m stuck in bed and can’t get downstairs to do anything. It’s incredibly frustrating at times and I get fidgety, which is when I write. Writing isn’t always easy though, as I only have one fully functioning eye now as the tumour is pressing on my right eye and has made it go squint. It hurts as well and at times it’s too painful to look at the screen or paper to write. Writing is important for me because it empties my head of tricky thoughts and is a way for me to process feelings. I have to write.

The same goes for the garden, which requires even more energy. We’re so lucky to have such a big garden. I often joke that it’s disproportionately big compared to the size of our house. The garden was nothing but gravel when we moved in almost five years ago and we’ve transformed it into a space filled with flowers and trees. I’ve had a wonderful time designing it and filling it with local seeds and wildflowers as well as more cultivated plants. The garden is a split between a wildflower wilderness with well-kept and cultivated areas that include fruit bushes and trees throughout. My favourite space is the composting. I have quite a large area dedicated to that. I love that I can recycle kitchen and garden waste and put it all back into the garden to feed the fruit, flowers, and plants. Most importantly, the garden teaches me patience as it takes time to establish anything in it.

For example, I wanted an arbour to provide some shelter from the sun as there was no shade at all but I was determined that it should be a natural arbour. So, I found a local guy selling willows for a couple of pounds. They were about twelve-inch-long sticks when I bought them. I put them in a bucket of water to sprout roots and then I planted them where I thought they might work well. They had two jobs to do, provide shelter and prevent the garden from becoming waterlogged. I noticed that every time it rained we had huge puddles so I figured that young willows drink about fifty gallons of water a day, and they would prevent the puddles. It was so hard waiting for those willows to grow but grow they did and the first year saw a good couple of feet grow on them. By the third year I was able to start weaving them. Now, we’re almost five years in and they are well established. They have been woven into a fantastic arbour of two arches. It’s a pleasure to sit underneath and enjoy the dappled shade. I’m going to plant some climbing flowers like honeysuckle and jasmine to weave their way up their branches as well to provide a beautiful, scented experience. It takes a lot to maintain it but I enjoy that and I’m planning on cutting branches and using them for basket weaving. And the bonus is no waterlogging, it was worth the wait!  Of course, this again is all dependent on my energy levels. Today, I managed to get into the garden to sow some seeds a friend gave me, marigolds, and blue cornflowers. I’ll look forward to seeing them come up. She also gave me some kale. I’ll probably sow that in the wild area as I have a lot of space there.

Working in the garden even for a short while supports my mental health and I’d recommend everyone to have plants or a garden to care for, even if it’s just a few pots on a windowsill. Touching the earth or soil with your bare hands and handling the plants is a wonderful way to connect with nature and find calm, and yes, I’m sure you’ve guessed, I am prone to hugging a tree now and again, it makes me feel like I’m connecting to natures’ energy and it grounds me. You just can’t go wrong with being in nature in any way, and today the rain has stopped, the sun has come out, and I have energy; it’s a positive day for me, and I will go outside to do at least one small thing in the garden today, and when it gets too much I’ll go back to my crafting desk or bed. I’m just glad to be able to get up today!