Thursday, April 12, 2007
Confessions of a Lapsed Gardener
I am coming out of the closet to admit it.
I used to be a gardener. And I haven't touched my garden for over four years.
I used to be a gardener. I knew the latin and common names of a huge number of Pacific Northwest Perennials. Thirteen years ago, we moved into our first house, and within the first three days, before many of the boxes were unpacked, I had begun to dig up a large section of the backyard lawn to plant a vegetable patch. It was April, and I wanted to get my peas in before it was too late. My son Colin was only eighteen months old at the time, but the neighbour girl was three. She loved to come over to my yard to eat snow peas right out of the garden. Sometimes I passed them to her through the fence. A woman who lived over the fence on the other side loved to dig around in her yard too. We joked that we worked each season moving plants from one part of the yard to another. We used to stand at the fence in dirt mode, chatting and laughing and trading chunks of plants back and forth. We joked that one day the garden would be "perfect" and we would simply sit back in a lawn chair and enjoy.
"Have you gotten to enjoy yet?" She would call over.
"Not yet, what about you?" I'd reply.
"Nope. Not yet."
When we moved to our current house eight years ago, the woman who sold us the house had been unable to work in the yard for several years on account of a bad back injury. The yard, front and back, needed a lot of work. I transformed front beds full of weeds into beautiful flower and shrub beds. Around back, I put in climbing plants, apple trees, pots and containers of all kinds full of summer annuals, and an herb garden. I climbed up and down the built up slope of our back yard, making it beautiful, and of course, never quite making it to "enjoy." When you love to garden, you never really get to the point of sitting back to enjoy. The process is all the enjoy you need.
I can't remember the last time I worked out in any part of our yard. I know it was over four years ago, and probably closer to five. When I hit burnout in my life, the garden had already been neglected for a season, and I have not touched it since. An avid-gardener friend of mine felt sorry for my poor dilapidated garden that was rapidly going to seed and weed. She knew I wasn't well and came over one Saturday afternoon to weed and prune and fix up the front beds. She probably hoped I would maintain that bit, but I did not. As my life became as weedy as my garden, her friendship withered and fell away too, into the compost of life and the way things go.
I am allergic to people who can only relate to me (and others) as a garden to be weeded. But I get rid of them easily enough. It only takes a season or two for them to get fed up and find someone else to work on.
Around this time of year I usually start to think about maybe doing a bit of puttering out there. Sometimes I feel a pang or two, of guilt possibly, or longing -- to lose myself in digging, in crawling around on the ground, in planting seeds and herbs and flowers. It usually doesn't last for too long, and then hotter weather sets in, and I am relieved that I didn't begin something I would have to maintain.
This morning I looked out the window and saw Doronicum. Leopard's Bane. A very hardy and popular perennial flower in this part of the world, and one of the earliest spring bloomers. A cheerful flower that has hung on despite me. I had to go out and capture it for Project Spectrum.