Grief , it strikes me, is a lot like buying a house in the winter, never seeing the back yard.
You don’t chose what’s there when you arrive, but you get to make all the choices after that. I stood in my present back yard 5 years ago, looking at 2 feet of dog crap, the world’s ugliest deck and an overgrown lilac(?) tree and threw up my hands. This was going to be an oasis? Not on your life, not without a firebomb to help me start over.
At first we walk out into this back yard that we have inherited, and it is a strange and foreign place. The placement of the shrubs, the ugly old iris clumps? They make us angry. We are frustrated, kicking the crappy looking grass, thinking “What stupid kind of idiot would put that there?”.
Usually, even in the most overgrown, ugly, unmanageable back yard, there’s something to catch your eye. An old-fashioned rose, a sunny daffodil, a tiny little johnny jump up. Something to make you feel the slightest bit, well nurturing. And the nurturing is a problem, after all ,that way hurting lies. That way leads to a hole filled with unrequited dreams. You pause, wondering if you want to put the time in at all, fighting against an almost primeval urge to create. Creation is the start of death, and you’ve had enough of that.
But, sighing, almost angrily, you dig around prune back and uncover. You sit back on your haunches, and stretch out your back, lifting your hands to the sky. Muscles seldom used protest, and you look at your hands covered in dirt and a few scratches from the brambles, and you don’t recognize them. You look around at the rest of the garden, and you chuck the hoe at the garage and stump back into the kitchen, returning to familiar piles of mess. At least that’s your mess.
The next morning you wake up, stiff and sore, and even though you swear that you are done with fostering this stupid business of growing life, the next plant in the jungle beckons you, and you go at that. Slowly, very slowly, you find that the living business of a garden has snuck up on you, and you feel responsible. You weed and water, and research. If you get very lucky, someone more practiced at this business of restoration shows up one Saturday with their gardening tools, and they help you go at it, providing succour and sustenance.
And then, something dies, in spite of all your efforts, when you bought the book and read on the internet, and you talked to the experts. You back away for a bit. You find yourself hopeless for a while, what would ever make you think you were any good at this life giving business anyway? For a few weeks, you ignore July’s heat and the lack of rain and you, well, you pout. You are, after all entitled to the pouting, no one could call you unreasonable for expecting something you had put all this damn effort and time into, to live.
The garden keeps calling, and you rush back in, and you find a few more things dead, but many more things still living, and that’s about the time you taste the first peas on the vine, smell the lilies coming up. Sucked in a bit deeper.
You make bigger plans, you dig up dirt, you re-seed the grass, hell, you go all out and you buy furniture, and you spend a breath-taking amount on a plant that will survive the cold season. You carefully dig the hole, you sprinkle in bone meal and rhizomes and you water very well, sending hopes and dreams into the ground.
There always comes a time in the middle of August, when it seems as if the summer will last forever, these long days will never end, and every night you have your coffee and a cigarette on the new furniture, the smell of garden heavy in your hair. You begin to think that you will always be in this place.
One morning you wake up, and the garden smells different. The smells are sharper, snappier, crisp and clear. You realize you do not know how to prepare the garden for this new season, and so you cut everything down, not realizing you should leave some stalks up so that you can see them heavy with snow. You don’t know to always leave a little something behind for the next season.
Fall slips past and then the snow flies, and you are not sure how to navigate this, it seems like another loss. As surely as you didn’t ask for the garden in the first place, you aren’t ok with it being taken away from you either.
This, this is the secret of gardening, that nothing stays the same. One thing becomes another, and then something else after that. Nothing is still except in our memory.
This guest blogger lives and gardens in Alberta, Canada, where her garden is under several feet of snow. Can you guess who it is? Her identity and my cross pollination post can be found here.
See all cross pollination participants here