I wrote this piece for the memoir class I am taking. It is the last of five garden related pieces. I is also where we are today, where I am. And so, I’m putting it here.
I am a gardener.
I notice what goes on in gardens: flowers and vegetables and herbs, perennials, biennials and abundantly blooming annuals that don’t stop until the first frost. I notice trees and bushes, decorative, productive and the volunteers that can be the bane in a gardener’s vision. I notice what the bunnies are eating, what cannot survive without six hours of sun, what the weeds are choking out and what thrives in a microclimate close to a dryer vent on the north side of a house. I know which tulips were planted as bulbs last autumn and which were planted full grown two weeks ago along a walkway with a carefully planned casualness. I admire the window boxes on Beacon Hill—lush, overfull and overflowing, miniature landscapes in harmonies of pinks and creams and lavenders punctuated with trailing greens.
So, here we are. The 25th of August. On my calendar the day is marked as Cheshire’s due date and although I am completed schooled in the idea that due dates are approximations and not to be planned around at all, my eyes opened this morning and I am all expectation.
I cannot compare it to my own due date either to give birth or to meet my child. I cannot compare it to first days of school—mine or my girls. Not wedding days—mine or Cheshire’s. The plans for those days seemed solid. We had set paths that only needed to be followed and at the end of the aisle was a known quantity. And it is not like meeting someone and falling in love—those dates are never circled on a calendar. There may be some hazy hope but no definition expectation.
This waiting time is all possibility and unknown. How will he fit into our lives, take up our time, burrow his way into our hearts. This is the possibility of a new reason to open eyes and start the day.
I began this when I woke up and drifted to my favorite chair to write a bit before getting back to a few more z’s. Finishing up about twelve hours later.
It is the darkest part of night. A lone cricket in my little, dry vegetable garden sings intermittently. A very slight breeze comes in through a dining room window. The breeze and the cricket’s song are all that breaks the solemn, velvet of the night.
A week ago plus a few hours, I dropped Julia off for a week long camp. Amazing. The week and the weekend before went so well. Again amazing.
The last day of camp, the units put on a camp show for caregivers. Last year, Julia would not participate in the show. This year she did! Not anything amazing but dancing and singing with her cohort. At the end of the show, the counselors acknowledged those campers who were aging out this year. This can be somewhat of a trigger for Julia—she has always hated talk of growing up and getting older. And of course, this was an announcement of transition. Well, she did great! She took the tee shirt offered, hugged her counselors and sat down.
A big bowl of tomatoes—so many that I can save a small bowl for the next two days (there are more ripening behind those I picked today) and throw the rest into a big pot to make a simple sauce that I will freeze for the winter. I have refrained from cooking inside during our heat wave—hot food never tastes good to me when it is hot—preferring to grill a bit of protein on my small electric grill (A nod of thanks to Cindy for gifting the grill to me when I left Madison.) and making huge salad with bought greens and herbs from the garden. Everything from the garden has more flavor and vegetables melt into one another so much more companionably than their supermarket cousins.
I let the tomatoes cook down for hours and what is left is the sweet essence of summer. I expect the pleasure long after I’ve pulled up the plants and cleaned the garden for winter.
We are quiet today with nothing planned. Some drawing, a load of wash, some editing for me and reading. Julia plays her music—Ukulele chords are just beginning to make an impression and she has a new cello piece. Then, Julia picks up her basketball and bounces it around the house until she becomes bored. She wants to go to the small park around the corner. She wants to go alone, but capitulates to my entreaty to go with her and sit far away. I am.
We left on Friday, early in the day. There was the threat of rain but there was also Longwood Gardens, one of my favorite places in the entire world, a bit more than an hour north. On the way home. Almost. It never rained but it was cloudy and clammy. Julia complained, but I was not to be dissuaded from indulging in the garden. We did some walking, less than I would have liked, more than Julia wanted. Compromise! Beds of color do not impress her, but the water fountain with musical accompaniment was pretty thrilling. Best of all was when I found the plant that is her favorite. I almost didn’t find it. It was in the very last exhibit, behind the green house, in a corner of the water lily ponds. Mimosa pudica, also called the sensitive plant. The tiny ground hugging plant with leaves that fold at the slightest touch is of never ending fascination to Julia. And she was thrilled we found it.
It is spring, and then it’s not, and then it is, and we get to open the windows for one day.
Last Saturday was that day. I almost wished I could have spent it in my little garden plot. —Yes, indeed, I can once again plant tomatoes and basil, a pumpkin, some chard and salad greens. I did nothing to enhance the soil last year but as this is my second year, I am thinking. But last Saturday was for walking and walk we did in The Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley.
Elm Bank was a private residence built in the 17th century. At the turn of the 20th Century, the owner engaged architects to build a neo-Georgian manor house and hired the Olmsted Brothers to design and improve the gardens. After various owners and various uses, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and it is now owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In April of 1996, after a public process that included thoughtful consideration of all aspects of the sited leased Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The old manor house is in need of deep restoration but the garden beds are laid out and ready to be worked on for spring. We enjoyed the bulb flowers and the flowering trees, and I enjoyed just being in a working garden on the verge of a season.
A rain storm is coming in.Slowly.I sit on our front porch tapping on the laptop. It was cool, sunny and breezy this early morning and I checked the weather when I woke up.Giving Julia the choice of a morning bike ride or walk, she chose the ride.
Biking has been a very long process for Julia.It took a long time to learn to pedal, and then to balance, and then, even after balancing, it has been years of practice to get her to the point of riding steady enough to do it in the street.Our shut down lives have yielded a bonus of empty streets.Julia is riding on quiet streets, and occasionally rides on streets that get a few cars often.She is finally steady enough to be able to ride on smooth, wide sidewalks.In Madison, we had the benefit of being close enough to a small bay to ride around.Fortunately, this year I think she is ready for streets. Continue reading →
That’s me—a helicopter gardener. My first year since 1993 without a real garden of my own and I have all the time in the world to plan, plant, weed, mulch and water. Well, not all the time but much more than I’ve had previously. So with time and a little plot, much like an over protective parent, I am out watering and a bit of weeding most days. The weeds are small and mighty—how I wish I had brought my small curved fork on a stick. Moving, I let go of almost all of my gardening tools. I use the rake my landlords have to weed and then put in some hands-and-knees time. I contemplate straw mulch. I’ve spotted the morning glory seedlings along the fence line but I don’t know what sunflower seedlings look like. I weed around the morning glory and try to remember where I planted sunflowers.
Most of the vegetable plants are doing well without fuss. I planted too early—yes, indeed, I did—and there have been many slow starts. Some of the basil and the rainbow chard show cold burn but even those are beginning to perk up. I worried the sudden onset of very hot weather yesterday and then laughed at myself. Too hot, too cold—most of the plants will do fine. They always have. Continue reading →
Morning before 8.I’ve gotten up, dressed, set up breakfast, taken out garbage cans, said hello to the guy across the street who is returning from food shopping—Ah, the wonder of senior hours.I wish I had opened a window last night to wake up to the birds.There is a lot of bird song this morning; the street, this tiny enclave, is quiet.Julia is still asleep—classes begin at 10, so no need to rush her up.I have my fresh, hot coffee and I put myself on the front porch to tap on this machine of see what comes to life.
It has been another challenging week although the challenges have been different.Julia did most of her school work, with even a bit of help from me; however, we’ve had trouble getting her linked into the zoom calls.I’ve asked the school IT for help—re-boot and reinstall—and then no way to connect.I was enormously frustrated yesterday.No way to get in, no way to get immediate help for class after class.Reboot and reinstall.I am almost sure it is my fault.I am probably doing some part of the set up wrong which makes me feel quite inadequate especially when I manage to sit Julia in front of her chrome book for class after class and she is utterly frustrated when it fails to connect. I wonder why I am not willing to just give her a pass, give us both a pass, duck out of school and go for a walk. Continue reading →
Not much of that the last two weeks.The city is tearing up my street, both streets on my corner.The crew port-o-potty adorns my terrace garden bed. From 6:45 a.am to 6:00 p.m., 6 days a week—scrapers scrape, diggers dig and hit stuff in the ground, pounders, earth movers, buriers of huge pieces of metal and all of it beeps mercilessly when they back up.I complained to whoever listened and grumped to myself often for days. Then I stopped insisting that my daily round remain the same and got out of the house as much as possible.After awhile the persistence to hold fast to my daily round and the desire to escape as much as possible settled into some middle space—I stopped complaining and reclaimed the house when I needed it, mindful of my tolerance.I needed to open windows and turn on fans and welcome (almost) the road dust.I started greeting the crew outside my windows and they’ve been helpful making some space for me to get my car out of the driveway and out of my street.I am on the verge of baking them muffins. Continue reading →