And just like that, a year passes and spring returns revealing the gardens we once planted. Asking us to come back and start again. But always from a place that has grown more than we could have ever imagined.
I can’t believe that last year at this time my father had 25 days to live. Of course we didn’t know it at the time but we had our premonitions. As a family, those premonitions were so strong that 14 of us from our immediate family gathered spontaneously on Memorial Day weekend to help Dad make his transition in a profoundly perfect way. The time was so effortlessly orchestrated down to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto blaring in the background while some minister from a church we never visited read scripture during his final hours. It was so like my dad to lightly mock scripture with music from the masters. It was a cold, windy, gray day but the next day the sun came out the lilacs bloomed, and the hummingbirds and butterfly moths were out en mass.
The rest of the year was a blur. Bittersweet memorials and soulful time with family and long-lost friends. Travel, so…much…travel. Life. Who knew dealing with grief would be so tiring and enriching at the same time. Losing my Dad was truly like losing a structural component. I was desperate to repair it, regrow it, or learn to live without it. The garden, once again, fell to the bottom of my to do list. It seemed like such an insignificant way to spend my time when there was so much that needed to be “fixed.”
Last weekend, like magic, a block of time opened for me along with a complimentary burst of energy and fine weather driving me back to the garden. “This year,” I declared, “I will feed my neighborhood.” Oh yeah, this gal is thinking big. Of course now the garden, ripe with arugula gone wild and giant red Japanese lettuce exploding in random places seemed like a huge task to tackle. Last fall, I’d had several raised beds installed along with a watering system because I’m getting serious about growing food. I used my new and improved yoga muscles to shred, hack, and lift for hours and hours. I was on a mission to unearth those beds so I could plant the veg. I worked in silence for hours with just the dog, butterflies, and hummingbirds to keep me company. When I garden, I go into this space where I hear and see nothing but the ground immediately in front of me until it’s clean and then step back, look at the big picture, and tackle the next spot. At several points I wondered when I would get tired but somehow I couldn’t stop. Every time I looked up, there were more appealing spots and fewer spots that needed to be addressed. I could see the garden coming into shape. By Sunday evening the garden was planted, the watering spouts adjusted to the plantings, and two huge piles of detritus for the compost man (I’ve overproduced so am sharing with the city this year). I’m growing red choi, 4 types of lettuce, onions, squash, and two types of peppers, one very hot of course. I’m committed to salad.
On Sunday evening I relaxed in the hot tub and wondered when the physical pain would set in. I wondered when I’d get lonely, restless, bored, needy, those familiar feelings I always associate with grief setting in. These feelings used to put me in a frenzy of “do-voidance,” my term for doing to avoid feeling. I’m sure that’s part of the motivation that got me going in the garden in the first place. I often joke and call my garden “The divorce garden” because after my divorce I took up gardening. I did all the hard scape myself which took pick axes, big shovels and car loads of heavy stone and wood which I carried down two flights of stairs. But as I thought more about it, I realized I was just in better shape physically and mentally and was able to move forward with the intentions I’d set for myself in the garden. I could relax after a weekend of hard labor and let myself enjoy the sunshine, the silence, and the gentle expansion of my physical muscles.
To me, the process of gardening is just another way of connecting with life and the process of growth. I can see where I was last year at this time, or even a year before when we learned my father was sick again. Flattened, desperate to fix, and impatient for answers. Everything seemed overwhelming and impossible to solve. But we just kept on plodding through the work. Some days all that meant was making it through the day. Now, nearly a year later here we are. The sun is shining, the garden is blooming and the garden is even more magnificent than last year.