Discretely: Find Your Happy Place

When I last saw Mrs J back in the pre-confinement days of early March, she had just completed setting up an impressive 18’x18’ dirt bed in one of the side gardens of the independent living facility where she resides, and was proudly sharing her planting schedule and next steps with me. Then came the virus and the rains and we all got distracted. Curious to see how she and her vegetable garden were doing, I recently left a voicemail for her to call me back, and she promptly and happily did.

Upon the death of her husband, Mrs J moved to Texas a few years ago attracted by family, but also because the planting season was so much longer here than in Montana. “Never put plants in before snow in the front of the Big Mountain is off” went the saying. This would sometimes happen in mid June! Gardening is Mrs J’s passion, her husband’s was silversmithing.

A simple Google search will bring up countless articles about the importance of having a hobby, something that our younger generations seemed to have lost overwhelmed by their professional and social obligations, not to mention their smart phones. Never more important to have a hobby than as we age. Engaging in something that you really enjoy can be physically as well as mentally rewarding. Pursuing a passion and sharing the experience with others can keep you socially active. Maintaining a hobby is known to help people relieve stress and improve their health. Moreover, it adds a sense of purpose to everything you do. In the words of Mrs J, “…there’s always something to do tomorrow”.

Whether cooking, dancing, reading, quilting, or completing jigsaw puzzles, there are plenty of options available for everyone regardless of age and skill level. The key criteria for choosing a hobby is that it gives you the opportunity to do something you truly enjoy. If you never had one, ask yourself the following questions to narrow your choices: Is it something you prefer to do alone or with other people? Do you want it to involve physical activity? Is there anything that you liked as a child that you would enjoy doing again? How much time and/or money are you willing to invest? Regardless of your choice, a hobby will give you a much-needed personal space and time, as well as the opportunity to interact with others with similar interests and passions.

Back to the vegetable garden, I am happy to report that Mrs J’s turned out to be a great success. Despite a disappointing crop of squash, this season’s bounty included artichokes, cantaloupes, cucumber, radish, tomatoes, pepper, onions, and potatoes. A sign by the vegetable garden reads “Feel Free to Help Yourself”. And many people do, especially after having volunteered advise to our generous Mrs J throughout Spring. Now it’s time for her to plan Winter’s crop and with it another exciting project. Starting with preparing and selecting the seeds in her appropriately equipped apartment – Mrs J would not get planters at the local nursery – designing the garden layout and then planting, watering, and weeding, the process takes time, dedication, and love. And, on occasion, a patch or two of Bengay. Well worth it. “It’s my happy place” says Mrs J. I would add “It sure beats watching TV, today more than ever…”.

The Discretely column by Eduardo Berdegué is published monthly in newspapers throughout the Heart of Texas region.

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