Sometime after that movie, I found myself thinking, “One day, I’ll have fresh flowers in every room in my house.”
That thought hardly finished when the next three thoughts came flying after it. “Exactly when is someday? Aren’t you old enough already? Can’t you give yourself permission now?”
That was the day I started gardening.
“Sometimes you’re so slow,” a good friend always says. This definitely described the case here. Rather than taking up gardening when I lived in the rich, black soil of Illinois, I waited for the beige, rock-clay soil of Texas hill country. It was a great learning experience. I learned how to mix clay with sandy loam, peat moss, and humus to make black dirt like that I had left behind. I learned about bark mulch and native plants. I learned that if you put things in good soil, and care for them, sometimes nature gives you back something beautiful.
When we moved on to Massachusetts, I inherited a garden gone wild by a house on 3 acres of pine forest. It was more than a garden it was a gardener’s dream. An architect/landscaper designed it and the house that stood by it. He put it in such that wherever you stood you could see garden—part of it, but nowhere could you see all of it. It was a garden like me. It needed tending as much as I did. We blossomed together that garden and I did.
Every part of the garden had its own personality. In places, the dirt was so dry, it needed water to be dust. In places the shade kept the soil almost damp.
I got to know it one cubic yard at a time. It talked to me through my hands. I talked to it with my mind and my heart. I uncovered azalea bushes so grown over with weeds, I’m pretty sure the last owner hadn’t known they existed. The garden showed all sorts of secrets to me. I told some secrets to it.
Two truckloads of bark mulch it took to cover it once, and I did it twice every spring. Slowly the garden came back. Giant Asian lilies grew 6 feet high and bent on their stems to make giant orange fans. By the fifth year, it seemed all of the original plants had been restored, and the new ones had become established. Less and less I cut flowers to bring in the house. When I did bring them in with me, I’d spend hours arranging and re-arranging them. More and more I preferred them in their nature habitat. I’d watch them from my window. I walk through the garden and talk to them under a sunny or starry sky.
The garden was a garden again. I was fully alive. Our work on each other was done.
Shortly thereafter we moved back to Chicago—home.
I’m in the city now and my garden is like a good friend I think about. I have beautiful silk flowers in so many places here and pictures of it. I often stop in the middle of writing something, to move a tulip or a daisy to make an arrangement look whimsical. There’s a single white rose in a frosted blue vase directly in front of me. I can look at it whenever I want to rest my eyes and think.
Today has been a day of doing things other people want. I’m reminded of why I spent so much time gardening. I don’t often miss having my hands in the dirt. Writing and music offer the same touch to the universe.
Still, tomorrow I’m going to buy fresh flowers and spend the whole day arranging them.
—me strauss Letting me be