Spreading Bark

For most people, it would seem spreading bark throughout the yard would be a dreaded task. Depending on how large the yard could be, spreading bark could be a nightmare. It seems to be something to fall under the category of a weekend chore. Often what was thought to simply be a chore for the weekend can spill into the next week. Causing a workday to leak into the evening outside with wheel barrel and shovel. Though sometimes those nights outside can be time well spent. The late spring or early summer evenings outside in the warmth can feel revitalizing. Maybe listening to an early season baseball game, as the yard transforms from the cold of winter to the life of spring and summer. It’s a process many complain about. Moaning as bark is unloaded in your driveway early Saturday morning. Before you commence your complaining imagine a scenario where you were physically unable to move the bark. You couldn’t maneuver it around the flowerbeds until it looked just right. With cerebral palsy, there has been a chance of not enjoying this simple pleasure.

The ability to move freely is a gift. When thinking about the journey with cerebral palsy movement quickly comes to mind. The movements of everyday life will always be hampered by my disability. However, it seems important to always look for ways to improve my mobility. Strength training each week has provided major improvements, but can’t stand alone. Playing golf in the summer and downhill skiing during the winter provide benefit to my movements. I’m also looking for other ways to positively impact my strength. Any form of yard work has been a contributor to improving cerebral palsy. The requirement of using my entire body in an activity always helps balance and coordination, which makes movement more smooth. The yard has always been a peaceful place to spend time. Not only does it help CP, working in a yard also helps the mind.

While growing up yard work was always a part of life. My dad would spend hours of each weekend outside. He would work on improving the grass, transplanting bushes to better locations, or adding new plants to one of our many gardens. The yard was a labor of love for my father. As his son, I always wanted to be outside with him whenever it was possible. Spreading bark or moving top soil, were a couple activities where dad could use my help. The joy from working out in the yard was nurtured by him. Even as a young man, being outside moving around in the yard was helping my cerebral palsy. The love of working in the outside has given me another passion for a physical activity. A reason to continue striving for improvements in motor movement. Though my father instilled the satisfaction gained from getting your hands dirty, the passion for watching things grow may have been with me before birth.

My grandfather was a farmer and though I never knew him, it seems his passions have carried forward. He passed away long before my birth. The farm he so carefully tended remains in our family. The 49 acres sit above the Sandy River just east of Portland. Growing up around the fields of my grandfather began my interest in working outside. Memories fill my heart of spending Christmas around the old farm. Being raised in the Seattle area meant holidays were the most consistent times there. The home my mother and uncle grew up in still stands at the front of the farm, with my uncle’s residence nearby. Some of my favorite memories are spending summer nights at my uncle’s home. We would wake mid-night to look out on the farm as a large machine picked berries in the warm air. The land was leased by then to a raspberry farmer, but it brought thoughts of what it might have been like when my grandfather was still alive. Seeing the picker travel up and down row after row fascinated me. Working on the farm was never part of my life, but I often dreamt about it. Today working in any yard causes me to not only feel closer to my father, but also a grandfather I never knew.

It’s fascinating how cerebral palsy fits into family history. Working in the yard might not have been as motivating without CP. It might not have been looked upon as something helpful for my movement pattern. The desire to work outside has been part of me since my youth. Looking outside to watch my father in the yard always left a desire to be outside as well. That desire brought about motivation to improve my strength. If there was ever a possibility of working in my own yard someday, things with my body would need to change. Many times, I didn’t have any idea if cerebral palsy could improve enough. Allowing me to take care of a yard someday. As a kid, even though my desire was to help dad in the yard for hours, it wasn’t feasible. My body would only allow me to help a couple hours at a time before fatigue set in and a break was necessary. This may have been where my passion began to concentrate on becoming stronger. There was a want to maintain strength longer and continue to be part of whatever might be happening.

So, this last week was spent spreading bark throughout my mother’s yard. Something which has become a kind of ritual in our family. My brother and I worked through the 20 yards of beauty bark at a consistent pace. Mom helped out here and there, but for the most part we took on the project. The strength I felt throughout the week was surprising. In the past I would have struggled with working any length of time. Most likely leaving my mother and brother without the extra help. This year was different, and though my brother did most of the work, I was able to hang in there, helping him most of the way. Strength training has changed many things in my life. It has improved the stability of my movements and increased endurance. Six days was all it took for us to spread the bark. The week brought us a little closer, with my new-found strength not only giving us more time to bond, but allowing us to share in the feeling of accomplishment.




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