Our Photoshopped Life

We have a greenhouse that we built 13 years ago. Over the years, in addition to containers of plants, we’ve taken our injured spirits, our feelings of joy, our foul moods, and our literally broken bodies to be nurtured and repaired on the garden bench that sits against one of the walls.

At the time we built it, the materials cost one hundred and fifty dollars. The frame of the greenhouse took about five days to cut and fit various components together; the structure made so that it could be easily assembled in the late fall and disassembled in the spring.

This year, with activities so curtailed by the virus, instead of storing the framework under the deck, we decided to remove the vertical boards and doors at each end, take the vinyl covering off, the shelves out, and use the structure as an open-air garden house for the upcoming summer.

The greenhouse typically winters-over tropical plants; a palm we brought home from an Arizona road trip; a red ginger which, for lack of a rainforest has settled on a life at our house, several jungle-like ferns, an ever-evolving collection of bulbs and flowers, and an orange tree that blooms in January and which fills those gray, dull days (as does a nearby Jasmine vine) with the fragrance of summer.

In addition to protecting vulnerable plants, the greenhouse serves as a make-believe retreat for Kathy and me; a place for our senses and our spirits to linger and be revived just a few footsteps outside of our door. We’ve read books on the foliage-encroached bench, drank wine, eaten dinner, popcorn, warm brownies, and fresh-baked cake.  Our dog used to stretch out beneath the palm and together we all escaped the confines of our house on the lousiest of rainy days.

In the frosts of December, the structure becomes a tropical island afloat on the seas of winter’s adversities.  Sun out, snow on the ground, the temperature inside the space can reach 85 degrees; unchecked, the vents unintentionally closed, it can climb to one hundred leaf-wilting degrees in the sun of a spring day.

There is a risk to writing about one’s life and posting photographs in blogs and on social media; the risk that the things you choose to write about and the filters you apply – if you hope to influence the spirits of others in a positive way – can make your life look kind of effortless, inordinately enriched, and continually fulfilling; your inner struggles and conflicts relegated to the past or non-existence. This feels especially true when writing today and posting photographs of our life and the greenhouse in the midst of this surrealistic and life-altering pandemic.

In this blog and on Facebook over the years, I’ve written about and posted photographs of our yard, recipes, thoughts I’ve had about dealing with anxiety, my efforts at art and the social events that have accompanied it, various trips we’ve taken, and the spiritual rituals I’ve endeavored to practice; our lives curated in a way, the everyday difficulties of life edited out, the ordinariness of our days, the clutter, the arguments we have, the worries, our shortcomings, the physical challenges we encounter as we age, cropped and abbreviated.

We built and maintain a greenhouse, a place to escape the harsher elements of winter; a place, where for a few moments, we can step away from the news of the world, the bills accumulating on the counter, the junk-mail cluttering the table, the debates that result from our differences, and the ordinary lives that we live like everyone else.

I like to write in the hope that the observations I make will encourage others to look around for the beauty in the ordinariness of life; maybe cobble together some kind of personal retreat for their own souls.  It’s good to pause and rethink our ways of being during those times when we’d like to feel differently than they currently do. Along the way, I photoshop out some of the everyday shadows of our personal life.

No one’s written to tell me that they’d like to read about the pain I feel in my lower back when I knell to put anything under our deck much less a greenhouse, the vocal noises that increasingly accompany the movement of my old joints as I lift a pot or ease myself up from a garden bench.  No one’s written to tell me they’d like to read about how a glass of wine in the greenhouse softened the edges of an argument Kathy and I have had in the kitchen – the everyday and ordinary clatter and clutter of our life.

So I write about an edited life; the greenhouse – the summer-house now –  where life is effortless, always beautiful, and free of cloudy days or any pain in my ass.