This weekend was beautiful in Nashville. I was nestled in my couch with a cup of coffee, blue-lit face staring at an empty inbox. I was waiting on a response from an editor, and it was Saturday, so I knew one wouldn't come. Monday, I thought, maybe I'll hear on Monday.
Outside, blue cloudless skies and warm bathing sunshine were softening soil left wet from a week of showers. So, even though we were planning on leaving our yard work until next weekend, I jumped the gun a bit and got to work. Plus, I needed a distraction.Rather than sit inside and press "refresh," maybe I could get a head start refreshing the front yard.
Just as a reminder, here's what our yard looked like before:
So with a spade and a shovel and a helpful husband and father-in-law, I set to work.
I started in the garden bed closest to the house on the right, and immediately, I felt completely overwhelmed. Roots, overgrown bushes, thorns, covered up stones—it looked like a garden gnome vomited on the ground six years ago and no one ever cleaned it up. I felt alone, like the work was impossible, and we'd never make a dent.
Hands in earth is back bending, muscle-aching work. After 4 hours in the yard, I felt like we'd made very little progress. The roots kept appearing, layer after layer. The sweat kept dripping and my hands grew weaker against the obstacles in front of me. At times it felt like I'd rather just drop a bomb on the whole yard and let it detonate. But slowly, things began take their places. Roses were cut low, thorns tossed to the side. Stones were turned over, cleaned and replaced. And as the sun set, I was tired. But it was obvious, my hands had wielded change.
On day two, my father-in-law showed up with a U-haul. Without telling us, he'd rented a truck and came by to help with the demolition. And that's when the real work got underway. One chain, one truck, and a whole lot of roots unearthed.
We dragged fifty-pound bush after fifty pound bush to the alley. Covered in dirt, my hands were marked with soil and roughed by sticks and limbs and leaves.
Inside, a shower rained heavy and hot on my shoulders, and I watched dirt muddy the pool at my feet. Cuddled in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and holding a steaming cup of tea, I sank into the couch. I checked my email. And there was the response. A rejection. "Don't be discouraged," she wrote kindly. "The bar is unusually high."
Normally, that kind of note would sting and bring tears and paralyze me for hours, even days. But there, sore on the couch, I felt the pain absorb into my already-aching muscles. Then, the sting diffused and disappeared. I wasn't sad. It was okay. I'd seen so much progress in my yard that day, that this small hiccup wasn't a problem. The hard work softened the rejection. I could handle it. The satisfaction of sore muscles trumped the sting of the spurn.
Work in the yard, over the stove, with the vacuum, with words, with my hands. Can these rid rejection of power? Yes.