“I won’t plant vegetables this year,” I told my two sons this winter. I said it often to convince myself. I’ve grown vegetables since 1970, but the weeds were more persistent than I was last year. The garden took more time than I wanted to give.
They listened. They’d heard this before.
David has a garden in North Carolina where he lives, but Anthony lives three miles from me. He wasn’t having it.
“Let’s make gardening fun again,” he said. This play on a maddening political motto became our mantra.
I rolled my eyes. It’s easy to plant, but harder to weed, tend, and harvest. Anthony knows my desire to have fewer projects, but he doesn’t believe gardening is the place to cut back. He sees how mellow I get when I tend plants.
“Will you consider a new plan?” he asked. He gave me a gentle hug.
“Maybe, but it has to be manageable.”
“We’ll keep it tidy,” he said.
“And small?” I asked. He smiled again.
Like their dad who died in 2008, my sons are Green Men with square jaws and curls. They’re good at growing things. They like caring for forest trees and trails. They aren’t afraid of a tick or mosquito.
A month ago in early spring, Anthony and I walked to the garden, still brown and wet from winter. He explained his new plan, putting in stakes where the fence and beds would go.
“Should we rototill?” I asked. “Maybe the beds should be angled east to west for more sun.” I was being lured.
“Let’s go for a no-till method.” Anthony spoke quietly, like I was a horse about to bolt.
“We’ll try two raised beds in wooden boxes,” he said, “and unboxed raised beds along the north side of the fence for peas, beans, and cucumbers. We’ll keep it easy to maintain so plants thrive.” Although the soil is rich, it’s been heavy the last two wet years. Anthony had a plan for that, too. He’d been busy.
A few days later, Anthony sent a text: “This man is my spiritual guide for gardening these days (besides you, of course).” The video was Gardening Myths That Take Our Time by Charles Dowding. After watching this soft spoken, reassuring gardener, I was convinced.
Last weekend, Anthony went plant shopping and returned with a few dozen seedlings for his garden and mine. We repotted lettuce, kale, and arugula with soil and compost. It was sweet getting my hands in dirt.
The next day, Anthony returned with his friend Jenna and set up the first box, filled it with rich soil, compost from my bin, worm castings, coconut husks, and more. I dug out some clumps of grass and watered the new plants at the side of the house where I’ll “harden them” to survive wind and sun. We all need a little protection.
Even as I resist, I’m pulled in. Why block a new idea before letting it sprout and flower? Maybe I’ll end up with a weed pile. Who cares? As we work and plan, I remember the first dream I had after Vic’s death about the Green Man and his message of renewal. The dream assured me I would find healing in nature and the garden. That hasn’t changed. What’s better for improving my hearing than bird songs I haven’t heard for years?
Can I approach life and gardening with more wonder and less will? I like what Margaret Atwood said.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Do you garden? Do you get overwhelmed or keep it manageable? For an article about the Green Man and my grief dream about him, see Bloom Where You are Planted. For an inspiring article by Oliver Sacks, see The Healing Power of Gardens.
I’m giving a workshop called Finding Wisdom in Aging and Loss in Columbus, Ohio on May 17 and 18. I’d be grateful if you shared this information with friends in that area who would be interested.