Forget the to-do list

Nicole Orr
Frederick County Master Gardener

(10/26) The time I have available for completing a fall chore to-do list is limited: I have two kids who keep me busy. One day recently I reluctantly started the clean-up process when out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. My 10 year-old, Brendan, had shimmied a ladder over to our Asian pear tree and turned into Spiderman. He was close to the top, balancing precariously on thin, flexible branches.

Heart pounding, I shouted to him, saying the same things I always do. "Youíre way too high! Be careful! You might fall!"

He responded with his usual, "This is awesome! I can see so much from up here! You HAVE to come up!"

I am a grown up with a list. He must understand that, right? Of course notÖ at that point, all he felt was the sheer joy of climbing that tree, the freedom of being so high, a fresh pear in his hand. In that moment, he was just being a kid enjoying nature; no video games, no phones, no football, and no to-do list. I took a breath, let my guard down, and just watched him. He climbed all over, tossing pears to me, reaching for the best ones so that he could share them with a friend.

Brendan finally got all the pears he could handle and returned to earth safely. He was beaming from his perilous fun so we continued walking around. I kept finding more things to add to my list but a little voice in my head said, "Life is short. The list can wait." We played hide and seek in the bushes. Normally, I would be pruning them. This time, we stuffed ourselves in them. We picked up sticks and had a contest to see who could throw them the farthest. He won. We wandered down to the creek and skipped rocks. He won again. We even had a hot pepper eating contest. That was probably not a good idea but we laughed until we cried. Thankfully, we had milk and ice cream on hand.

We kept on walking and saw birds eating dried up sunflower seeds. The seeds were still nestled on the large flower heads, hanging heavily on their stalks. Berries were ripening into beautiful reds and oranges for meals to come. We even found some random poop, (yes, I said it), probably from the skunk we smell every night. As we walked around the yard, we talked about school and friends and random things that wouldnít have come up had he not climbed that tree. That moment of forgetting about the list, for me, was the catalyst to a yard adventure. We didnít plant anything, cut anything, dig a hole, or even work in the garden. We just enjoyed the moment. My son may not realize that by climbing that tree, he marked a point in time where I conceded.

As gardeners, there are many things that we need to do to be good stewards of the land. There are times, however, when priorities need to be reorganized. Sometimes I need to live a little, relax and get out of my adult mind to feel the joy of living like a child. I am grateful that I forgot about my gardening to-do list for a day because Brendan and I made amazing garden memories. Although my list of chores hadnít budged, my stress level had fallen. Iím thinking that from now on, the first thing on my list will say, "1. Play outside with my child".

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