Ruminations of an eccentric gardener

     I’ve spent the last several evenings gardening in the front yard. This has come to be my favorite time of day. The neighborhood kids are all running around and they love to stop by for a chat (or a cooling spray as I water the flowers). Families are out for an after-dinner stroll. The mom across the street sits on her front step watching her children ride their bikes up and down the street. Another woman stops to tell me that she goes out of her way to pass by our house because my garden soothes her after the pandemonium of her day.
Courtesy of Suzanne Blackburn

      A pair of nesting finches admonishes me to leave the area so they can tend their nestlings in the wreath on our front door. A blue jay and crow across the street holler at one another, and the protective jay trills a warning to his mate.

      Some kids ride by on bikes without wearing helmets. I chide them for not doing what they need to do to stay safe. I have come to believe that we are responsible for the safety and well-being of all children in the absence of their own parents; for as my children have grown, I have dearly hoped that someone is keeping an eye out for them when they are away from me.
      I come across a gigantic spider and call to the kids on bikes to come have a look. We shudder and agree that while none of us wants a spider on us- especially that one- they are very cool to watch. And we wonder where mama spider is going to deposit the huge white egg sack she is hauling around behind her.
      After many years of cultivating perennials, it is time to thin the plants. I try to save as many as I can, and delight in watching the evolution of the neighborhood as it becomes awash with the color and fragrance of the beauties that have outgrown my garden. The little guy from next door shyly approaches to give me a blossom from his mother’s garden, and then helps her transplant some of my flowers into their yard. My neighbors and I have become partners in this venture, assisting one another as needed, sharing tricks of the trade and a cool drink on the front steps as we admire the fruits of our labors.
Courtesy of Suzanne Blackburn

      Gardening is synchronous to life: the flowers, the weeds, the web of life and its interconnectedness. We grow and blossom when the conditions are conducive to growth. We wilt and wither when we are not getting what we need. We cycle through seasons of productivity and dormancy. We live in chaos when the extraneous details become so blown out of proportion that we lose sight of our true purpose. We need other people, in the way that the garden needs its many organisms, to exist.

      Gardening with little ones is a wondrous experience. Preschoolers love to play in the dirt alongside us as we dig and observe the miracles of nature. But how bittersweet it is when they lose interest in things that once fascinated them, to become more enthusiastic about what is going on beyond the boundaries of family life. We are tempted to hang on for dear life to the way things used to be, but we must be brave and let go a little more each day. Children are doing what they need to do: developing their own interests, seeking independence, bonding with other members of society, learning to fly. Before we know it they are packing to leave the nest to go out into the world on their own. We can only hope that they are fully prepared for the intricacies of day-to-day life.
      I have become the eccentric lady in the garden down the street, keeping a protective watch over the children, as other neighbors have done before me and will continue to do in generations to come.
Friends from down the street stop by and we share news about our grown children, who are off making their own way in the world, as we watch the little ones scamper after the ice cream truck. – RDW (6-2-10)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *