Alysa Cummings: In the Garden

Alysa Cummings, Group Facilitator for LBBC’s writing workshop series Writing the Journey, shares a seasonal excerpt from her recently published cancer memoir, Greetings from CancerLand,  in July’s second submission to Living Beyond Breast Cancer‘s Writer’s Corner.

In the Garden

I’m in the garden, thinking about the change of seasons and growing things in the summer and weeds that sometimes bloom with brightly colored flowers. And my thoughts turn to cancer, as they often do.

Maybe it’s because gardening has become one of my favorite therapies since being diagnosed. Yes, I call it therapy even though a backyard garden is a mixed blessing at best. After all, weeding, planting and maintaining a garden is hard work. Intensely physical and often draining for a middle-aged person, wouldn’t you agree? Then there are the other challenges: squirrels that dig up just planted bulbs, rabbits who chew up the tender green shoots just as they push through the soil. On those days, exhausted from the digging and covered head to toe in dirt and grime, (typically with a stubborn fly or two crawling through my hair), I might ask, why bother? What’s the point?

Then there are those magical days when a lily opens to the sun and I know it from the moment I first open the porch door and take a step outside. The flower’s intense perfume fills the air. Sometimes on a summer afternoon, I can look through the kitchen window and see a butterfly delicately balancing on a bloom in the garden or spot the fluttering of a hummingbird’s wings before it zips away. That’s when I know that it was all worth it: the hard work, the time, expense and trouble.

When I think about gardening as therapy, I’m reminded of a night so many years ago when a support group member talked about growing flowers in her garden.

She was a fellow breast cancer survivor thrilled by her recovery. Excited to have reached her first goal:  five years! She shared with us one way that she was planning to celebrate this momentous occasion: I’ve been buying annuals since my diagnosis, she said. But this year I am going to start planting perennials again.

The gardeners in the support group nodded with understanding; (the non-gardeners, not so much). You see, annuals last for only one season. Marigolds, petunias, impatiens; beautiful flowers in vibrant colors, but by summer’s end, they’re gone. Perennials, on the other hand, grow back, year after year.

That night in the group some of us learned something new about flowers and gardens. But all of us were schooled in a valuable lesson about hope in CancerLand.

Hope is planting perennials in your garden, believing that you will live to see the flowers bloom next year.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host another Writing the Journey Series in the Fall. Check back to the LBBC Blog for more insights from Alysa Cummings and future Writing the Journey creations.

3 thoughts on “Alysa Cummings: In the Garden

  1. I love the part where your friend switched from annuals to perennials. What an eye-opener, that gardening is great therapy for breast cancer survival. Good for you. (My therapy is cooking :))

  2. I loved gardening before my diagnosis. But now I find myself emotionally attached to it even more. Every morning I look forward to watering and loving every plant and flower. I take pictures, never did that before, I guess something concrete to have
    to continue the magic through the winter. Your hope story is touching, may we all find beauty in our annuals and perennials every year.

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