Transformations: Amy Carpenter

Garden girls

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 2:15pm

It’s Saturday in mid-October and the wind outside is reminding us that very soon, snow is coming. We just bought our cross-country ski equipment at the annual ski swap, raked up the recent drop of the leaves, and unhinged the planters to store in our garden shed alongside pots, tarps, shovels, rakes and wheelbarrow. I circle in and out of the house, setting another load of laundry, taking out recycling, stacking the empty egg cartons to return to the farm so we can bring home more.

Passing through the living room, I make small talk with my daughter as she lays sprawled on the floor, offering a gentle reminder to take a break from her papers, and go outside.  She squirms and mumbles, moves the papers around, and after a while sings softly to herself, easing the burden of labor. These are familiar sights, the squirming and mumbling amid piles of paper.  High school isn’t what it was when I was a kid. The hours a modern teen can spend at homework (all requiring a stationary position) are astounding to me. And worrisome. 

As I head back outside to ready the leaves for removal, I’m aware that tending the garden gets more satisfying every year. Plucking out leaves, cutting back the irises, removing dead branches, planting bulbs; all in anticipation of snow.  The beds remind me of children at nursery school preparing to nap. They require whatever comfort I can offer to allow for sound sleep. 

We tell stories. 
We tell stories to make sense of our lives.
We tell stories to communicate our experience of being alive.
We tell stories in our own distinct voice. Our own unique rhythm and tonality. 

Transformations is a weekly story-telling column. The stories are written by community members who are my students.

From time-to-time we will feature guest writers whom we have invited to contribute to the Transformations series. 

Our stories are about family, love, loss and good times. We hope to make you laugh and cry. Maybe we will convince you to tell your stories.
— Kathrin Seitz, editor, and Cheryl Durbas, co-editor

"Everyone, when they get quiet, when they become desperately honest with themselves, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there." — Henry Miller

Kathrin Seitz teaches Method Writing in Rockport, New York City and Florida. She can be reached at Cheryl Durbas is a freelance personal assistant in the Midcoast area. She can be reached at


I stop to think if there’s anything else they need, and smile at how silly and yet important it all is. To watch the plants grow, to tend and nurture the environment around them, to ready the ground for winter and clear it all again, come spring. 

When I’ve done what I can and realize the homework girl is probably where I left her, I head back in to inquire, “Can you please rake the leaf piles onto a tarp?”  Assuming this will be met with resistance, I’m surprised as she shrugs her shoulders, says nothing and begins to stand up. We’re having lots of talks lately on the need for taking breaks, so a directed plan supports the process. 

How simple parenting would be if it were like the garden, which asks nothing but to be what it is, requires nothing but occasional tending. In return, it offers the fruit of its slow labor. Those tender buds who release each spring from their hard stalks, unfurling their colors through another season.  

During my writing break, I watch my daughter try to haul an enormous tarp cross the backyard.  It’s filled with leaves representing the last of summer’s bounty. She’s bundled and adorable, looking down at the ground, undoubtedly singing.  I think of the challenges we’re now in, in this mother/daughter journey. They seem so different from the challenges of early years, yet somehow the same.  Her strong will and endeavor, meeting my attempts to support and instruct. How very alike we are, and how very different.  

“Are you coming out?” she now asks, as her high hair-bun and red nose peek round the door frame. The pile of leaves, too big for her to haul by herself, are there waiting, a mountain of brown against a back-drop of grey and barren trees.  

“Yup,” I reply, looking up from my screen and smiling, “We can move it together.” 

Amy Carpenter, LCSW is a psychotherapist and writer living in Rockport, Maine. She recently completed her second book, Channel Crossing: The Challenge and Success of Solo Parenting (currently under editorial review). Amy is managing partner at, where she writes and curates essays on the solo parent life. Her writing passion extends beyond parenthood, however, and focuses more broadly on the subjects of: human connection, mindfulness and accessing personal joy. Find her at