Step by Step
Our garden is completely wrong for someone with MS – it is full of steps. Some days I look at those steps and know that they are a climb too far.
The situation hasn’t been helped by the garden growing increasingly wild over the last two years as neither Pete nor I have been able to manage it. Then it started to feel like a really big task, so it became even more unattractive. However, this summer we’ve been at home more than usual and the weather’s been pretty kind, so we’ve been tempted to tackle the undergrowth.
I found myself tending the steps. It was partly a necessity: unless I could clear them I couldn’t climb them. They are made from railway sleepers with grass between them, and there’s a hedge to the side of the main flight. The sleepers were covered in moss, the grass was overgrown and you had to fight the hedge to walk past it.
I sat down on the sleepers and began to attack the growth. It was very soothing. As I worked, I could hear birds singing in the hedge, and could smell the earth as I pulled up the weeds. Though I’d brought gardening gloves, I discarded them in order to enjoy the feel of the dirt between my fingers.
Once one step was cleared I could climb to the next and repeat the process. Sometimes I was watched by our curious rabbit, not sure about someone encroaching on her territory.
Time passed without me noticing. That first day, I found that I’d been outside all afternoon and it felt wonderful! I’d had oodles of fresh air and had been doing something useful and satisfying. When I looked up at the steps I was amazed at the difference – the steps were actually visible once more, and it was lovely to see the railway sleepers, fixed with much effort by Pete, back in all their glory.
I was now hooked. I headed up the steps when time and energy permitted, cutting and scraping away at the layers of growth, getting gradually higher. Around me, Pete fought back pernicious brambles, so that shrubs that I’d planted several years ago, reappeared suddenly as mature plants that looked like they belonged there.
Being fully involved in the uncovering of our garden has given me extra energy. I’ve not thought about not being able to climb the steps. I’ve just done it because the desire to be in the garden has been strong enough to get me up there.
I struggle severely getting down the steps again – I have to take care not to fall. Clearly I am exerting myself, despite thinking that I’m just pottering with my hands. I do squat on my haunches and tug at stubborn clumps of grass, and I can feel my stomach muscles working as I use the secateurs. It must all add up. That my legs are complaining and I collapse exhausted on to the settee show that I’m doing some exercise.
I’ve also noticed something else – when I have a break from yoga over the summer or at Christmas my body usually stiffens and aches so that I’m forced to do some exercises at home. However, this summer that didn’t happen. Maybe steps aren’t so bad for someone with MS!