Sunday, June 14, 2015

Speak Mulch To Me

What makes life worth living?

What can a person do to add meaning to their life?

What will be the last thing that we think of right before we go toward the light?

Would it be... this?
Oh, yes. Yes it would. If you were my spouse.

Mulch would be what makes everything worthwhile. Mulch would be why we work, why we put in the hours, why we set aside the weekend, why we toil until that first day of summer.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and found in the places where others overlook. And when you are on this side of life, as we are, you grapple with mortality. You question purpose and use of your time on earth.
Or you find your answers in mulch.

You rake, hoe, and lose yourself amidst the layers of bark. Mulch is the cure for what ails my husband. His weary working soul is fed, as is his flesh, through the satisfaction of aching muscles that evidence a job well done.

The week after Memorial Day, my husband will place his call. He will shiver as he requests his color choice, Euro Blend. I used to wonder why we had to devote 3-day weekends to the process of topping our soil, encircling our trees, spreading our flower beds, covering them with tree debris.

 I used to roll my eyes at the annual spreading of the mulch, how we would lose 3 good days of weekend time. I teased and ridiculed his love for mulch.

Then I grew up. I finally noticed with head-out-of-my-ass eyes the joy that working on our house brings to him. I felt his appreciation for all of us, for me and our children, when we spent this time with him. Over our 20 years together, I was slowly getting the point. We weren't losing time, we were making time. Mulch was the Love Language that that cheesy relationship expert wrote about in the '90s. This was how my husband bonded with his family, having the 5 of us together in the front, side, and back yard, made him feel like we were our tribe caring for our cave.

Neanderthal? More like primal.

When we're filling up our wheelbarrows and dumping, spreading, placing mulch with garden gloved hands around our trees and the hedges that line the side of our house, I see my husband smiling. I can feel his calm, the serenity of his zen. He will go to each of us and with brown staining pats on the back, let us know what he feels.

“Good job, guys!”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Looks great, honey!”

“Thanks, Mark.”

Then with his hands on his hips, he'll survey this third of an acre and sigh, Yeah, the yard looks good.

A dump truck delivers the magic mulch on a Thursday. On Friday we begin to spread. On Saturday, we have more to spread. By Saturday night, I'm testing the waters and asking if perhaps we have mulched as much as we can mulch. Sunday, 4 o'clock, we are finished. As I walk around to the front to try and understand what it is that he sees, I stand on the sidewalk and look. He is kneeling--spreading the finishing touches of mulch around the mailbox.

“Thanks, honey.”

“No problem, Mark. The mulch looks good.”

“I mean thanks for marrying me.”

I spend three days with my gravely knees on a gardening pad, swatting away mosquitoes and with my pollen mask over my face. And next June, I'll be here again. With a pitchfork in my hand, shoveling Euro Brown into our red wheelbarrow. Doing what makes my husband's life meaningful.
Because in every scrape of my shovel scooping up wood chips, he will hear, I Love You.

* * *


  1. Owwww..... that is so touching. I'll never think of mulch the same way again! Great example of taking a positive approach to everyday life.

    1. Thank you, Diane! Means the world to that you read it. xo

  2. My whole family looked at the mulch pile in awe and amazement.

  3. I am fascinated by the ways we each find peace, some spontaneously, others on a cycle with the sun and earth. Beautiful.



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