The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

May Observations: Two Steps Back


Well, “Mayhem” is just about over but there’s probably more “hem” coming up.

I am reminded of the Towhee who visited my garden a while back. He would scratch the ground and hop back to see what he dug up. I called it the “Towhee Two Step” and that’s what I have decided to do this year – hop back and see what I dig up. I am joining Donna of Garden’s Eye View in Seasonal Celebrations because this is how I plan to celebrate my summer this year – by stepping down, back and out and just sitting quietly, freely, enjoying.

The past few summers I have felt overwhelmingly busy. I am also guilty of “comparison syndrome.” An example of my internal monologue: there are mothers out there with THREE kids, SINGLE even, who work FULL time and still find time to enjoy themselves, surely, YOU, with your “part time” BEST job in the world should not feel overwhelmed. Yes but, the truth is I DO feel too busy and overwhelmed and I am becoming increasingly unhappy. Everyone is different and I shouldn’t compare – I should listen to me (not the I should voice). So, that’s it, it is time to reevaluate and take two steps back so I can move forward.

I work seasonally (for money) in the wonderful community of Thousands Islands Park. I enjoy planning the plants especially. Beginning May, Monday through Thursday I tend to the gardens in 4-5 hour “shifts” because truthfully any thing over that, physically drains me. (Yes, I’ve spent 8 hour days in my garden but that’s with beer breaks and a tomorrow to recoup!) I find the job challenging for one person, a good thing, and I don’t have any desire to have help or a staff because I know I work best independently and alone. It is my second year and yes, I recognize I could do some things better. My boss probably does, too. But I’m going to be nice to myself – it takes experience to know what you can do better. I am certainly gaining experience and I certainly want to thrive in and keep this job.

Fridays I try to reserve to paint but I have accepted a few private gardening jobs in addition to the Park and that’s what my Fridays have become.

There is also my 50 hours of master gardening volunteer hours to give back to the community which I want to keep doing.

Saturdays and Sundays I try to reserve for my own garden but I admit, I am usually quite tired and don’t do the work needed. If I rest one day (which usually entails catching up on the laundry, a bit of cleaning house, etc. – you know, that kind of “rest”) I can spend the other in my own garden but really, one day a week is not enough.

There are four working shifts required of the gallery I belong to and we are all encouraged to attend and bring food/wine for receptions to opening shows. Paintings have to be matted, framed, etc. which I do myself because of cost. Because we are a seasonal gallery there is preparing/cleaning for opening, and preparing/cleaning for closing, carting my paintings to and back from – well, it all adds up to quite a bit of time.

There are monthly garden club meetings of which I am supposed to have an agenda for as President – i.e. organize a speaker, a garden tour, etc. … eek, that is event planning and something I wouldn’t tout as one of my strong suits.

For a time I also belonged to a local community garden.

I do not have kids and probably for good reason. Just a dog who is always ON, full blast, and a greenhouse full of seedlings which I consider my babies.


I want to be in the garden as I write this but it is humid, hot, and windy today – not great for planting or watering – and I feel beat up, sore, tired – listen to your body, just sit for a bit.

This is my studio space/office.

CIMG7271 CIMG7272

How the hell could anyone get anything done here? It drains me of energy just looking at it. I am going to move it to another room of the house that is slightly larger while simultaneously go through everything and purge valiantly. My improved workspace will be open and free of clutter and that’s how it occurred to me that I need to also do my own Towhee Two Step! – not only step back, but completely OUT of things – yes, scratch that please.

Scratch – the local community garden was the first to go even though I believe it is a great thing. I have the space and do grow my own vegetables why do I need to expand outside of my garden? Relief! No more weekly weeding, watering and meetings.

Scratch – I am stepping down from being President of our local gardening club next year. Relief! not having to plan events and also be there consistently each month without fail. I do enjoy gardening, and the garden club, I just don’t enjoy being the faithful leader.

Scratch – Do NOT accept any more private gardening jobs this year! Relief! – focus on the BIG job.

Scratch – I am stepping back from the gallery for a few years. I constantly struggle to frame my pieces and even produce art. As a result, I don’t have much to sell and honestly, it costs me more money than I make. My presentation at the gallery frankly, sucks. I am going to step back. Relief! Don’t worry about inventory, frames, cards, prints, presentation. Saturdays, Sundays free of gallery time? Relief! More time I can be in my garden even if only to sit and enjoy summer. My winter get away is the perfect opportunity to paint everyday. Yes, I would like to spend more time just painting, please. Dig up some more techniques and ideas, work on my presentation. Wait, I can simply focus on one thing at a time? Garden summers, paint winters?

Garden summers. Paint winters. Simple. Garden summers. Paint winters. Focus. Garden summers. Paint winters. Repeat.

More quality time for just gardening, just painting, or to just sit quietly.


Thank you Mr. Towhee for the inspiration to scratch and step back. I am now free to celebrate summer!


Author: Kathy Sturr

Cultivating art, growing soul, and creating plant-based food in the beautiful 1000 Islands, New York and Cedar Key, Old Florida.

16 thoughts on “May Observations: Two Steps Back

  1. that was beautifully written, and inspiring.

  2. I agree with Diana, Kathy….I am overwhelmed with all you do and how you very logically have decided to step back and regain your life…bravo for you and enjoy your summer of gardening.

    Oh and thanks for joining with Seasonal Celebrations.

    • Donna, just announcing that I’m stepping back is a relief. And see, I have found time, finally, to join in your seasonal celebrations! It makes me happy.

  3. Loved this, Kathy, using the ‘Towhee Two Step’ as an inspiration. Reducing the drag on your life is such a smart thing. One can only do so much and at least for me, the older I get, the more I just want to do what makes me happy!

  4. My gosh. What a busy life. Take care of yourself.

  5. I have the same trouble with that comparison thing. It seems our culture encourages us to climb every ladder. We can’t just garden, we have to have the best garden with the most unusual plants. We can’t just write, it has to be a best seller. And so on. When I feel that envious twinge coming on, I remind myself that I am where I need to be and one can have a wonderful life without being on the top rung. One can live in obscurity and still make a difference. And I have been scaling back, too, and feeling the same kind of relief. Better to do a few things with passion and focus than to be spread so thin nothing satisfies.

    • So true Kathy! I said to my husband I would rather do two things really well than a hundred half-assed! I am getting over the comparison syndrome – I catch myself. You are a wise woman! I think you do have the best garden with unusual colchicum – ah ha!

  6. Ah yes, this speaks to me so much at the moment. Why do we do this to ourselves? I love that you learned from a Towhee. Be kind to yourself. Peace.

    • I love that you grow honey berry. I want to try that someday. I haven’t any snap peas this year – they never did sprout. Big bummer. I would starve if it weren’t for grocery stores. It is just time to reevaluate and nature always inspires!

  7. Oh Kathy!!! Playing catch-up + boy we should start a “Scratch” club!!!I can relate to this post so much for I have had to scratch a lot out of my life + decide what I need to do here or there to make happen what I want here or there—hmm…make sense. I am rushed right now for I am meeting a friend to bike the river. It is not a scratch it is my “stress” free exercise and I love to visit the Mississippi River each day to clear my head. I grew up near water…it heals us who live in an urban area…

    I can relate to your studio, I have a “creative room” that needs my attention. I use to do my “art” in there but lately, I can’t even stand to go in the room. I tried to make some “ideas” happen a few months ago + I just left-LOL. I have my garden rooms created and need to just maintain them now and get inside and clean out my creative space. I have devoted quite a bit of my life the past few years- to getting the food right, growing for others, helping others grow etc…now I need to “scratch” just like you—-I am with you scratch sister!!!!

  8. Pingback: Seasonal Celebrations Revealed-Summer 2015 | Gardens Eye View

  9. Pingback: Seasonal Celebrations Revealed-June 2015 | Gardens Eye View

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