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Honey I broke my teeth

Meleah Maynard

Meleah Maynard

December 13, 2012

“You’ve got to be f-ing kidding me.” I can’t be sure because I was pretty shaken up, but I’m fairly certain that’s what I muttered under my breath as soon as I realized I’d broken off both of my front teeth in a fall down our basement stairs on Thanksgiving morning.

It was one of those slow-motion accidents, the kind in which you try to catch yourself numerous times to no avail. Hand grabs for non-existent railing. Head hits metal post thingy by stairs. Underside of forearm takes the brunt of the fall onto the concrete floor before knees slam down and then, face—SNAP! About three-quarters of one tooth broke off cleanly and the other sort of shattered, leaving a sharp, jagged, horizontal edge. I remember spitting out tiny bits of teeth, but we looked everywhere and only found one small piece to save in a glass jar, like our moms did with our baby teeth, and we did with our dog, Lily’s.

“Honey, you won’t believe what just happened,” I called to my husband Mike, who was outside putting our plastic Santa and reindeer on the roof. But he could believe it, and so could I. Just two days earlier my new doctor had just one piece of advice for me: “Relax; chill out,” she said, “try meditation or take up yoga, even if you do it just five minutes a day.” This was her prescription for my complaints about digestion troubles, food allergies and just a general sense of feeling alternately revved up and exhausted.

As you might imagine by now, I have heard this before. But propped on one elbow on the basement floor while running the fingertips of my other hand over my broken teeth, all I could think of was how I had fallen because I was once again trying to do too many things at one time. It also wasn’t lost on me that I could have been badly hurt. As it was, once our dentist answered his emergency line and assured me that I must not have hit nerves or there would be more pain, we scheduled an appointment with him for the next day and celebrated Thanksgiving with our friends as planned. (Though I’m sure it was not too appetizing watching me eat.)

Photo by Sigurdas

What does all of this have to do with gardening? you ask. After all this is a gardening blog. Well, here’s the thing. I’ve tried to meditate many times and just ended up sitting in a leg-cramping position while making a mental grocery list. Yoga is fine, but that’s not going to cut it as a relaxation tool for me. So, aside from working hard to be mindful of what I am doing: “You are walking down the stairs right now, and that is all you are going to focus on for the moment,” I’m wondering what else I can do to bring more calmness into my life and less multi-tasking.

And that got me thinking about gardening. I always think of gardening as my stress relief, my way of relaxing. I’m outside hauling, digging and planting from the time weather permits until it doesn’t. And when all those people walk by saying some version of: “Gorgeous gardens, but that sure looks like a lot of work,” I cheerfully reply: “It’s not work to me.” But is it and I just don’t realize it? I am not one of those gardeners who will tell you that they rarely sit and enjoy their garden because they’re always working in them. But I am the sort of gardener who, in between sips of wine and bites of dinner, looks around her gardens to assess what should be done next.

Aster yellows

How did I let that Joe Pye weed get so tall again this year? OMG! Is that aster yellows on the phlox? What’s up with those crappy-looking ornamental grasses? I really should add more compost to those back beds this fall. Am I pruning those hydrangeas wrong? This sort of “monkey mind,” as I call it, equals a never-ending list of gardening to-dos, and I’m not bothered by that. I like being out in the garden working on this or that. But does this mean that gardening isn’t relaxing in the way I think it is? Am I really getting the dose of peace and calm my doctor thinks I need—and I clearly do need since it’s gotten to the point of lost teeth.

What do you think? How does gardening make you feel when you really think about it? And is there a point where it adds to stress rather than easing it? I would love to hear your thoughts as I muddle my way through this process of figuring out how to just “chill.”

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Catherine Stewart
11 years ago

Oh dear, how terrifying it must have been lying there at the foot of the stairs not really knowing what damage you’d done! What a relief that is cosmetically fixable, at least.
Since I made everything to do with gardens my career, it’s been hard to find that sense of otherness in my own garden. I’d never believed it possible you could get to a point where you thought – the garden……hmmm…..I’m feeling a bit over it right now. But then something will often still catch my attention – a water dragon draped lazily through the birdbath, the scent of summer gardenias or the texture of my beautiful paperbark tree and I get caught up again in the wonder of it all.
I find ‘mindfulness’ a great therapy for the worst days, when the ‘busy-ness’ of life overwhelms me. I sit outside and try and exclude all senses but one. First, the easiest – I close my eyes and think, what can I hear? I let my ears roam around the garden, picking up the bird calls and rustlings, the creaking of boughs, the flap of the fabric awning, the tiny ‘pops’ as the little milk bubbles in my flat white coffee burst. Each time a thought unrelated to that intrudes, I push it back and concentrate again. Next I think about what I can feel – sun, cold, breeze, texture and so on. I can decide to do this for about 10 minutes and then find that over 20 has gone by as I sat, immersed in the present. It’s the best way to just stop that I know. Not that many people I know believe that I ever slow down!
That said, I don’t where you do this mindfulness when your garden’s under 4ft of snow……….

Julie Thomson
11 years ago

I love your mindfulness lesson, Catherine and incidentally, my sympathies Meleah. What a nasty accident. Do hope you have the med insurance required for the fix-up. Unsure what the situation is in the US, but dentists/orthodontists in Australia charge like wounded bulls. The richest people I know are not bankers, doctors or hedge fund managers . They’re dentists.
Anyhow, I should not be turning the talk to money. Glad you did not do any more permanent or life-affecting damage.
You sound like you go at life at the pace most of us do – ie full tilt. Even in the peace and serenity of the garden, I am constantly casting about for what needs doing next and have to stop myself every now and then to just BE there!!!! Your meditation is v smart, Catherine and while I am not as “Zen”, I do make myself read in the garden at least once a week. It forces me to stop and sit and empty my mind of the garden “tasks” and breathe in in the surrounds, the sights, smells and sounds and movements and splashes ….
But meanwhile, there are roses to feed ……………..

11 years ago

I just need to look around my neighbourhood to realise that our garden is one that keeps us kruisin allong
I live in the Adelaide hills area in South Australia and it allways amazes me that most of the people up here have a great area for a garden but most just like to slash slash slash.
My direct neighbours get a bit of a fit in their head when they come over for a nosey and get all inthused and will plant something in a hole smaller than the pot size and wonder, why doesn’t it look like Graeme and Tina’s.

That gives me a lift to keep on going with our garden, no stress i just want to keep people amazed at what you can do with “a lot ” of hard work.
So when i have spent the best part of the day planting,laying blue stone paths, building pergolas, blah blah blah, thats when i go back outside after that best hot shower that you’ve ever had with that obligatory jug of red
and look at what we have achieved,THATS when you CHILL.
Nothink like it even the pain in my back goes.

Bang the Drum Graeme.

Alison S
Alison S
11 years ago

Hi Meleah. What a beautiful smile – even if your teeth are broken. I hope your usual just-as-beautiful smile will be restored soon. For me, garden anxiety is a very real problem. It seems to get all mixed up – as with just about everything we do in western society – with ideas of success and failure. I don’t know how we manage to do this to ourselves but, as it clearly starts very early in life (and is expertly reinforced by school) it is very hard indeed to shake it off. I do experience those moments of joy, serenity or wonder that Catherine describes – just listening to bird song or looking very carefully at one beautiful flower – but I can’t make them last. Within moments I’m worrying about failing, getting it wrong. Now I come to think of it, I even wrote my last blog posting about “failures” in the garden. I’ve read that stress is often related to feelings of not being in control. So, is it that our garden worries are all about not being able to control this piece of the earth that we call “our” garden?

Tammy Schmitt
11 years ago

This is so f-ing funny!! I’ve never broken teeth but I’ve had plenty of other mishaps because I wasn’t focused on what I was doing. Gardening for me is a huge stress reliever until I start obsessing over everything that needs to be done and then I can’t sleep so I’m tired at work and then I spend my lunch break trolling online nurseries and making to do lists so I can rush home to garden and feel better. But when I’m on the patio and start to go into “get up and do stuff’ mode, I just drink more wine.

Mary Gray
11 years ago

This is a great post! I swear we lead parallel lives…I have WAY too much going on in both my life and my brain, although I haven’t broken any teeth yet! Probably I do bite off (npi) more than I can chew in my garden and often I wind up neglecting other responsibilities because I spent too much time creating a new garden path or some such thing. I still see gardening as my refuge, though! I hope you get your teeth fixed to your satisfaction though I have to say that I love that picture!