A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Step by Step

garden steps

garden steps

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.

my first success

my first success

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 watched

being watched

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.

a step too far ... for next year

a step too far … for next year

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!

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4 thoughts on “Step by Step

  1. That’s great – we’re hoping to get out in our garden today, weather permitting 🙂 maybe you could build some stopping/support stops on the way down your steps??

  2. Edwina on said:

    Hello Mary, I’ve been enjoying your posts for some months and have been meaning to get in touch to say so, but your latest story struck a particular chord – I too have a hilly garden with steps and I was shuffling around on my bottom on the aforementioned steps only a few weeks ago. In my case it was the adjoining flowerbeds that needed attention rather than the steps themselves, but, having put the job off for some time it was a relief to actually get out there and do something. My partner does all the major grafting, but that little bit of flowerbed was mine and mine alone.

    Have neglected the garden entirely today and been out for a walk – fantastic autumn colours!

    • Thank you! Yes, it really makes a difference if you are able to actually do something yourself. I’m sure you’ll get extra pleasure from watching your flowerbed grow. I really enjoy just looking at the steps now!

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