Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

“D” is for Dirty Girls–Girls Who Like to Play in the Dirt–Some Call Us Gardeners


dirty girls, play in the dirt, gardenig


I’m not sure when my love of gardening hit. Was it watching my grandmother working in her garden which always seemed to be magically full of beautiful flowers? Was it winning an award for my “Silver Bells and Cockleshells” dish-garden at age 8? Maybe it seeped in as I helped carry Grandma’s 60 to 80 pots of flowers  out into the warm air every spring, and back into her bedroom in our house every Fall! Her walk-in closet became a miniature green house every winter!

Gateway to our back patio, wish the Lady Banks would bloom forever!

I remember playing in the sand box for hours with my brother and next door neighbor! That readily transferred over to the boxed garden where I was free to dig and plant!

Little makes me happier these days than crawling around in my garden and digging in the dirt. About the only thing that tops that, is when my grandkids, now 7, 3, and 1 come over and get dirty with me as we dig, plant, and water amid peals of laughter, which drift through the neighborhood.

And crawling is what I truly do. You see, due to my serious heart condition, I can’t walk far, certainly can’t lean over, or work at any physically demanding activity for a sustained amount of time without getting angina. I had pretty much given up my gardening days when we moved into a new house around my 55th birthday, now I’m 66. All around me were gardeners! Retirees, a lot of them, they made me yearn to get back out there! Right next door were Mr. and Mrs. Industrious Gardeners and outdoors lovers, aged in their eighties and nineties!  The man, 92, had some heart issues also, but it did not deter him!  I watched as he sat on the ground instead of bending over, and literally crawled around his garden!  “I’ll be darned!” I said to myself, if that 92 year-old man can do that, well so can I!”

I may have neglected to tell you, I use a power wheelchair when I go outside or away from home. It allows me the freedom to run around like I used to do before I got sick. I use mine at home like a four-wheeler, running all around the yard, pulling a wagon full of dirt, compost, flowers, and sometimes children!  What a sight I must be.  More than once, when a new neighbor moved onto the street, at some point they see me on the ground, the empty wheelchair sitting nearby, and come running over to help me get back up! They never dreamed I slid right out of that chair on purpose, and that I can climb right back in… albeit not very gracefully.   But it is FUN! It improves my quality of life, and brings me joy, what could be better than that.


Okay, as most of you know, I am writing these blog posts, A-Z as part of a challenge for a group I have joined called the “10 Minute Novelists”.  They are a talented group of fiction writers by whom I am very impressed. Many in the group are published authors who share their experience with the group.  As is very obvious, I have generally written nonfiction–genealogical  blog posts. I have written fiction before, in fact, as many of you know, I wrote a draft of my first novel  this past winter.  But I have  a lot to learn. In reading the posts of the other participants in this challenge, I realize that most of them are writing fiction–their blog posts are marvelous, mini novellas! Well, mini stories at least! So, I thought I’d rewrite the above blog post as a story, and let’s just see what it might sound like, LOL


Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

The older woman who had recently moved into the neighborhood, was chatting with her neighbors outside as they went about their beloved gardening activities. They were weeding, transplanting, feeding, even picking pretty flowers to use in their home. Little did they know how envious she was that they were healthy enough to do what she could no longer do. Her two heart attacks had forced her to quit work and use a wheelchair. One neighbor, just her age, was president of the local garden club. The others were a husband and wife, ages 87 and 75 respectively. They were becoming friends quickly, so Julie felt comfortable  just “hanging out” while they worked. 

Julie watched, wide-eyed,  as Michael, who was 87, sat down on the ground and scooted or crawled over to where he wanted to go next. He thought she was thinking he was crazy lazy, so he explained that he had mild heart failure and a pace maker, and that leaning over to garden was too stressful for his heart. All the while, she was thinking “Wow! Wow, if this old man can do this, so can I!” She explained to the couple about her own heart troubles.

She was so excited to think gardening might be in her world again! She decided to try it. She made sure she had her cell phone with her to call for help if she needed it–her husband was still at work teaching.   Julie collected her trowel, gloves, and a basket, and parked her wheel chair near the end of a garden overrun with weeds.  She slid right out of her chair like it was a child’s sliding board.  Then she scooted/crawled right over to the edge of the flower bed.  She began to dig and pull weeds out, placing them in the basket. Before she knew it, she had crawled to the other end of the garden, about fifteen feet away, and had been working for an hour.  The basket was filled long ago, and all along the path, stood piles of discarded weeds! She was tired, but oh so happy! It had been so long since she’d had the chance to dig in the dirt! It was better than therapy!  (She had been a psychotherapist in her past life as a working professional.) However, now her chair was way down at the other end of the garden, and she was just too tired to crawl that far! Besides, she was filthy, what a sight she must make for her neighbors. Just as that thought occurred to her, Julie looked up and there was Paul from down the street.

“Hi there, Julie isn’t it? Are you okay? I saw your empty chair, and I was afraid you’d fallen! What can I do to help?”  He seemed very surprised to learn that she’d left her chair on purpose! But when she asked if he might be willing to drive the chair over closer to her, well– he seemed happy to try it out! “Cool, it’s kind of like driving a little car or something.” She encouraged him to take it for a spin around the yard, and he did!   Soon they were chatting like old friends. She didn’t even mind that he watched her pull herself up, none too gracefully, into her chair, where she landed with a thump! They were friends now, she felt his support and care, felt no judgement or pity–just friendship. What a wonderful day– her heart sang, and happiness bubbled up from her soul!



Do I dare ask what you think?  Will I ever make a fiction writer?  I’m not sure I know how not to “tell” the story, but to let the story unfold, or be “in” the story. Hints? Suggestions–short of hang it up or go back to school? LOL   We’ll see, maybe I was meant to be a non-fiction writer. 


Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

6 thoughts on ““D” is for Dirty Girls–Girls Who Like to Play in the Dirt–Some Call Us Gardeners

  1. Helen, I loved reading this. My parents are avid gardeners, and yesterday my 6 year old was planting beans with them! I think you did a great job on your story. You know what the key is to writing fiction? Write every day. Once I started doing that my skill level increased. And read…a lot. You have a story tellers voice, for sure!


  2. so glad you found a way to make gardening work for you – There is nothing better than to lose an afternoon in the yard digging in the dirt!


  3. Thanks for the encouragement Lauren. thanks for sharing also, I bet your parents enjoy working with your six year old as much as I love being with mine. You are so right about the writing of course, I will give it a try. By the way, I just sent a link to Sweet Caroline to my sister in Virginia, I’m in NC. I love that story. Helen


  4. Thank you Judi, you are so right about the afternoon, and yes, I am so thankful to have that opportunity again! Thanks for taking time to read and share.


  5. Helen, I’m not a gardener (much to my mother’s sadness as she is a great gardener) but I have found huge inspiration from both your post and your story to find a way of continuing to enjoy interests depite life’s limitations. Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Debs, that means the world to me. Genealogy is another passion of mine, and i have a cousin who is a Carey from Pa, an artist. We are related through the House and Hogue families?any of that ring a bell? Helen


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