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It’s Always Something

November 4, 2009

Back walkway in happier times (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) I had intended for this to be a post about peonies, but events overtook my intentions; and the line that the late great comedienne Gilda Radner chose for the title of her memoir, It’s Always Something (Simon and Schuster, 1989), pretty much describes my feelings. This has definitely been an “it’s always something” sort of year.

When January rolled around, I was happy to be done with 2008 and looking forward to 2009. I was near the end of a stressful three-year term as chair of my academic department, my department’s disruptive exile to trailers during radon mitigation was almost over, and, to make it all sweeter, I was due to begin a one-year sabbatical in May. I was very much looking forward to a year in Maine and some hard-earned R&R.

The new year began somewhat ominously, with a crisis in my department serious enough to make me consider resigning my faculty position. But I held on through that situation and diligently slogged away at all my responsibilities through the rest of the semester, always with the shining promise of that sabbatical held out before me. And then, in mid-May, just a few days before my sabbatical was due to begin, came the phone call that my mother had been hospitalized. What followed in June and July is a blur, but summed up in one of my first posts on this blog, “The Lost Garden Season.”

By fall, things were looking up. My mother’s situation was somewhat stabilized (albeit not happily so), I got into a regular schedule of driving down to Rhode Island to spend two days with her every other week, I got away for a few days of relaxation in the Pacific northwest, and I even finished digging and planting the new fence border that was supposed to be this year’s major garden project.

Back walk disassembled to access septic tank (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) On Monday of this week, I was really feeling on top of things. I’m a morning person, so the change back to standard time with its extra hour of morning light got me up and moving early, feeling energetic and full of purpose. I was almost finished with stacking this year’s supply of firewood, I was actually making progress on my sabbatical research project, and I had finished taking apart the section of the back walkway over the septic tank so that the septic service company could pump out the tank and end the plumbing problems that I had been experiencing for the past couple of weeks.

But it’s always something. When the septic tank was opened, it turned out to be full not of septic sludge, but of water – fluid that should have been draining off into the leaching field, but wasn’t. To find out why the tank isn’t draining, the back yard will need to be excavated, starting with something called the “distribution box,” which is located somewhere beneath that newly planted fence border, and probably also requiring destruction of a considerable portion of the 40-foot walkway that it took me three consecutive summers to build. (Please allow a moment here for a big sigh while I feel very sorry for myself.)

Fence border at beginning of season (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The fence border before this season’s work began and the walkway that will probably have to be dug up.
Fence border in process (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The fence border in process (only a few short weeks ago!)

Okay, I know that in the cosmic scheme of things, this is a set-back not a tragedy. Once whatever work is required on the septic system is completed, the fence border can be replanted (and redesigned to accommodate the new septic system if necessary) and the walkway can be rebuilt. In ten years, this episode will be the merest memory blip.

But right now I just feel that Gilda Radner was right. It’s always something.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2009 10:02 am

    Oh no Jean, I feel so bad for you. The only good thing is the plants haven’t been in very long so should take well to moving (again). The walk (which is beautiful) is the tragedy. All the work!
    Hope everything works out well.
    We are having problems with our plumbing as well. Not a septic, we are in the city, but tree roots growing into the old clay tiles. It will have to be all dug up and replaced, one reason I haven’t made any changes at the front of the house.

  2. November 4, 2009 10:18 am

    my heart breaks for you , it’s been really tough. I can only say .. All things work for good. And it will take time but I can’t wait to hear it – Praveshree

  3. Jean permalink
    November 4, 2009 10:25 am

    There was a long-ago little saying that went like this:
    ‘They said, “Cheer up, things could be worse.” So I cheered up and sure enough, things got worse.’

    I hope your ordeal is soon over with the plumbing and the garden disruption.

  4. November 4, 2009 2:47 pm

    How very frustrating. Of course all will be put right eventually, after the septic problem is solved. But in the meantime you have to watch to disassembly of part of your yard. Take heart. It may give a chance for some new ideas for putting the yard back together.

  5. November 4, 2009 3:54 pm

    Jean! Sorry to hear of your misfortunes…it has been an annus horribilis here too with a broken leg and a burst well pipe necessitating excavation work. The good thing about gardening is that there’s always another year! Enjoying your blog.

  6. November 4, 2009 4:19 pm

    Oh dear Jean – you have my sympathy. I hope that the walkway might escape the drastic action you fear and that the whole experience is not too traumatic.

  7. November 4, 2009 4:51 pm

    You’ve got the right attitude, Jean. My husband something similar. “In a hundred years, it won’t matter.” Considering the work that needs to be done, the area looks remarkably good.

  8. November 4, 2009 6:25 pm

    How terrible! Looking on the bright side, your path is looking amazing.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.
    It is nice to meet you!

  9. November 4, 2009 7:51 pm

    Oh Jean, I’m sorry about your garden and the upcoming disruption. I do think that you have a great attitude in “going with the flow”, but it is totally okay to feel frustrated – I certainly would.

    Well, I am looking forward to seeing your fence when it is finished sometime in the future 🙂

  10. November 4, 2009 8:01 pm

    I feel for you! All that work and effort, but I think that if (and lets hope there isn’t a lot of re-working) and when it happens, you will be struck with a shimmering case of garden inspiration, and the area will look even better than it does now! In the meantime, sigh away, you are so deserving!

  11. November 5, 2009 6:06 pm

    Oh Jean! I am so saddened to read this. What a beautiful walkway. I hope that minimal digging will be required to figure out what it wrong and fix it.

  12. November 5, 2009 10:06 pm

    I hope all ends well. Your yard will look better than ever.

  13. November 6, 2009 5:05 pm

    Oh my that is just awful! The good news is that nobody is dead or dying and it can all be fixed. Just keep saying that over and over and maybe you will believe it eventually. Sorry that happened to you!

  14. November 6, 2009 5:36 pm

    Oh, my…You’re right it is always something! If it’s not one thing it’s another. I seem to say those two remarks quite often. Your garden and walkway are very pretty and I love your hosta. You have done a wonderful job. When I’m stressed I always say to myself, “And this too shall pass!” until the next something….:) -Amy

  15. November 6, 2009 7:35 pm

    Oh my gosh! How horrible!
    I’m glad to hear that your mother is doing better; but oh my, your garden! All that work!

    You know though, I learned a long time ago that no matter how horrible things may appear, there is always a purpose behind them. Perhaps when you lay out the path again you will find that it is better than it had originally been and you would have never reached perfection if you hadn’t been forced to tear it up.

  16. November 6, 2009 8:46 pm

    Me again! I just wanted to let you know I have “hammered” you for the Honest Scrap Award. Please visit here for the details. I don’t know if you participate in this sort of thing and will completely understand if you chose not to. I just want you to know that I enjoy reading your blog.

  17. November 8, 2009 5:18 am

    Jean – that pathway is beautiful. In the not too distant future you’ll be taking pictures of the new new pathway & saying phew! I’m reading ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’ at the moment and can recommend it, especially for times like those you’ve been facing.


  1. My Not-So-Secret Garden « Jean's Garden

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