I met my friend Helen in the frozen foods aisle and she almost immediately began the conversation by talking about the news on TV.
“I can’t watch it just before bed anymore – it’s just too depressing. I watch the news very early so that my sleep isn’t wrecked by all the tragedies and violence and depressing stuff.”
I am increasingly convinced that good gossip is a strong antidote to the cumulative build-up of bad news stories. By good gossip I mean telling each story about positive things, kind things, pleasant surprises that we’ve experienced directly. Good gossip often relates the “splendor in the ordinary,” the commonplace world of small things that make our lives bearable and hopeful.
Here is one of my stories.
Several weeks ago I got up and began to walk towards the garden when my hip sort of “gave out”; it just couldn’t take any weight with pain. I knew that it would happen eventually. Ten years ago the surgeon who repaired my right hip said that there was osteo-arthritis in the left, too, but that at the time it didn’t require surgery.
When I felt the hip “kink” on that walk to the garden, I went back into the house to get one of my canes and proceeded to do the garden work. Things didn’t get better. They got worse. The muscles knotted up, the nerves got pinched and things spread. (“If the neck should say to the hip, ‘I have no need of you. . . .’”) Soon my neck muscles knotted up so badly that I was in agony and Ibuprofen didn’t help. Robaxacet didn’t help. I went to the doctor and he sent me to a massage therapist immediately – I was in within an hour – and to the physio-therapist the next day. And he gave me some Tylenol 3.
So I had some relief, but was certainly not in shape to pick up the half-acre of pasture clippings I had mowed and raked. And the garden was becoming a weedy mess (it’s more than 3,000 square feet in size), the flower beds looked like a bedraggled hussy, and wielding a weed-eater virtually impossible.
On hands and knees
Worried, in pain and discouraged, I put an ad on a local farming Facebook page, and then went to town to hobble around the farmers’ market. No sooner did I arrive when one of the vendors motioned me over and said, “So what’s wrong! You’re not feeling so well! What can we do to help!”
At home, a telephone call came from my friend Crystal: “I’d be glad to come help you with your gardening work – I can do weeding or almost anything else you want.”
And so the discouragement began to disappear just as the physiotherapy and Tylenol were easing the pain. Crystal weeded and weeded and weeded. We’re talking hands and knees, hand-weeding and cleaning out quack and lamb’s quarters, shepherd’s purse and stinkweed, chickweed and even a few thistles.
The second day she arrived for work dawned sunny and I asked, somewhat hesitantly, if she was averse to picking up the raked hay with a pitchfork and loading it on a trailer to store in the barn as loose hay.
“Oh, that’s fine,” Crystal replied, “I’m here to help.” And so we did it: I drove the little Kubota and Crystal pitched and stacked and unloaded hay.
In the photos accompanying this article you can perhaps get an idea of how something as low-tech as a pitchfork, a tiny tractor, a battered pick-up-truck-bed-trailer and something as ordinary as grass can be agents of healing when presented by a person who is “here to help.”
As fine an antidote for the daily horrors on the news as I can imagine. Instead of pain and distress, I will spread the good gossip of hand-work delivered with concern by a fine friend.
Before leaving, Crystal said, “That was so much fun. I hope to do it again.”
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