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Coffee with Mimi

By MIMI BECKER

Sometimes you just have to allow yourself to get dirty. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It may even be more beneficial the older you are. Getting really sweaty is a very good thing too, especially when combined with getting dirty. 

Getting really sweaty and dirty is especially beneficial when the cycle is completed by getting not sweaty and dirty.

There is a whole lot going on in the process of developing and appreciating this theory. I’ve been working on it for a few years. For the better part of my life, I have been consumed with occupations in which sweat and dirt are not very professional, therefore not very comfortable states of being in the normal course of a day.

As a teacher and a school principal, most of my time was engaged in activities indoors, working with children, parents, and staff. Sure there were opportunities to get out and be physically active. But, they were few and generally were followed by a rush to neaten up, cool down and be presentable for the next activity.  

My retirement job offers me the opportunity to walk to and from home and office on many days.  I consider this a privilege and I guard it quite jealously. I can walk to and from nearly every office or store I need. I plot my errands and meetings requiring a car very strategically. It is a bonus when car errands fall on the same day as rain.  

Heading into the office on foot rarely works up much of a sweat – it’s just about a mile from home to office – leaving me fairly presentable for the day should I have a visitor or a meeting.  

The return trip in the afternoon is quite another matter. Hauling a work bag and purse, sometimes a computer, especially in the summer heat, adds to the effort, resulting in a less than fresh appearance when arriving home.  

Which brings me to the sweaty and dirty, then not sweaty and dirty part of the story.

This is all very easy for me to say. I don’t have to work in searing, relentless heat all day, every day, to earn my way of life. I know and acknowledge that I have it quite easy as I have existed the better part of my daily life in temperature controlled comfort. But, I may have been missing out on a healthy opportunity.

The past few years, since I retired, I have taken it as my mission to tame the wildness of our yard into some sort of submission and semblance of an organized garden. There have been a few aspects of executing this plan which have required the employment of outside labor.  Practically speaking, I am not in possession of some types of large equipment and even if they were available to me, I should absolutely not take it upon myself to operate them.

I will never conquer this yard. I will never be the “Yard of the Month.” Yet, my yard keeps me sane – even more so as time goes by.

The work I do in my yard involves dirt and, in the heat, sweat. I do this work alone. Some people may think I do it because I have to. Maybe there was some truth to that in the beginning. But I have decided this is the way I want it. While I am working in the yard getting dirty and sweaty, clearing weeds and moving plants and rocks, I am also clearing my head and considering whatever.  

Lately, there has been a lot to consider. There are many more than the usual life unknowns; what will we be doing in six months? Is everyone in our life healthy? What plans will we need to make, undo, and then remake? It seems life is swirling around in circles with no clear cut, apparent, actionable, reasonable and agreeable certainty. 

One thing that is fairly certain is that grass will grow, weeds will take hold and there will be some project that will be fun to be planned in the yard. And, pretty much all those certainties will involve sweat and dirt, and allow time to consider.

Recently, it occurred to me that the necessary and never ending task of mowing has become a very useful time of my day. My walk home, in the rising late afternoon heat, was actually motivating me to get out in the yard. I wasn’t just feeling the pressure to keep the grass and weeds at bay, I was enjoying the work. On two days, I didn’t even take time to change out of my work day outfit. I did put on my garden shoes. The rest was washable.

The key is to take advantage of the work. We have almost an acre of yard divided into three natural sections. A good sweat can be worked up one section at a time; there will be plenty more days to cover the other two and the weeds.  

Sweat, dirt and time to consider. Then, a shower and a cool drink. A simple, and available, path to peace of mind.