The Garden

English: Rhododendron in The Roughs These purp...
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In my old life I had a garden.

When we first moved into our home, the 1 acre yard was a motley medley of scraggly grass and tenacious weeds; too wet to mow and too shady for grass to thrive.  It was a blank canvas.  Slowly, I began to paint, using the medium of small starter plants, tree seedlings obtained from the forestry department, and cuttings and divisions nurtured from friends and neighbors.

I had a vision of a magical woodland retreat, filled with the soft haze of ferns and the subtle flowers of the understory.  For years, this image existed only in my head, the reality of small, young plants planted in a vast, weed-strewn yard looked nothing like a garden.  I spent hours on the weekends and after work attacking weeds and planting replacements.  On days when the weather was prohibitive, I would research plants and growing conditions.  I made annual treks to a budget nursery in a nearby town, filling my car to the bursting points with dreams held in the bright green folds of new growth.

But slowly, it emerged.  I watched 2 foot bald cypress saplings grow to 30 foot trees.  Ferns and hostas spread their roots far and wide under the protective shade of the understory.  Hydrangea proudly held their blooms high, as though no longer ashamed of their companions.  Colors would come and go throughout the weeks: daylilies, Lenten rose, iris, geraniums, azaleas.  Their spectacular shows provided endless variety and interest.

From February through November, I would begin most every day with a walk along the stone path, through the pergolas, and over the boardwalk.  Examining the new growth,watching the wildlife, reveling in the beauty of the plants.  On the weekends, I would bring my papers to grade out to one of the hammocks to enjoy the breezes through the leaves and the interplay of light and shadow.

In my old life I had a garden.

It was painful to walk away from my plants, nurtured for so many years.  I found myself staring at plants around town wistfully, thinking of their counterparts in my yard.  As with much of my transition, it was painful, but also freeing.  I no longer had to worry about the assaults of deer, the dangers of a last freeze, or the effects of a flood.  My weekends were not filled with weeding.  My hands no longer frozen from the cold February soil.

But still, I mourned my plants.  I purchased a pass to the botanical gardens and promised myself a monthly visit.  Now, I walk their perfectly manicured paths and appreciate the beauty created by teams of professionals.  The gardens are stunning, but it’s not the same as one created by my own labor.  My own dreams.

In my old life I had a garden.

The last few years, my nurturing energies have been turned inwards, helping myself to grow and thrive.  I have tried to eliminate the weeds, start new plantings, and encourage growth.  I have become my own garden.

American Eastern Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis)
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5 thoughts on “The Garden

  1. You and I have a similar backstory, and I too lost my garden (and at the time, thought part of my soul also) with my divorce. It took me a few years to get back into it because for a long while it was too painful to even think about. In hindsight I actually think I grieved more about the loss of my garden than my marriage…I remember shortly after the breakup updating my Flickr profile where I used to post all of the pictures of my garden and wondering what was left to write. I came up with this, “I used to have a garden. Now I have the world.” It still stands there today.

    Hugs. I understand where you’re at.

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