Wednesday, June 1, 2011
There are lessons in the garden that I seem to need to learn over and over again: lack of control, appreciation for surprises, heartbreak, sharing, impermanence and patience. I have experienced bumper crops and blight, had plants and flowers eaten by hungry creatures, pulled up by human hands, and decimated by Mother Nature. Such is a garden and such is Life.
I have never quite made peace with the tug between private and public in my gardening. The garden is where I go to be alone, to lose myself in the meditation of weeding and digging and yet there is something about a person alone in her garden that invites all manner of interruption: cats rubbing up against one's leg and laying in the seed basket; a neighbor's dog trouncing across fresh transplants and slapping a tail across one's face, people calling out, wandering over, and assuming that conversation is in order. When my kids were little, they used to find me in the garden and proceed to ask me a million questions while crunching on pea pods they'd yanked off a vine or through the green teeth of lemon balm or parsley mouth.
When one gardens, visitors want to see what you've been up to and, to be honest, there are times when I am the one offering a tour: Do you want to see the garden? I don't do that with other solitary activities: Do you want to see my book? Would you like a tour of where I take my naps? The garden is both private haven and some sort of public sphere where conversations happen. It is creative and yet completely scientific. I have read books and quotes where authors mused about the miracle of gardens but it doesn't seem particularly miraculous to me--it is much more a salad of science, creativity, passion and frustration. There are no made-up laws of economy or politics in the garden, nor is there any respect for invented hierarchy or predictable performance. The garden does what the garden does and while I may move things around, the process is far bigger than me!
We are having a cool, wet Spring here in Oregon. Last year was similar and non-gardeners complain and complain about the lack of sun and warmth. Most flowers, vegetables and plants find a way to thrive regardless of whether it is beach weather or not. A cool Spring and early Summer may not be great for tomatoes and melons, but it is ideal for brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli and cabbages. Some years are sunny tomato and pepper years and others are bumper crop pea and cabbage years.
Some years the poppies bloom early or the dahlias bloom late. Every garden is a little world connected to a bigger world. Bees and birds and weather and spiders and worms. As our wedding approaches and my relationship with Teri takes center stage, the garden seems to be the perfect space for me to sort and contemplate and make sense of all the ways relationship building is like creating and tending a garden. While the work is never done, there is something delightfully surprising every day.