My work in the garden continues. It’s mostly ‘winter work’; tasks that get the garden started in spring, like pruning, getting beds ready for bulbs, cleaning up this and that, making room for my hopes and dreams, and seeing my vision of the garden come alive as the weather warms and the days grow long. I spend so many gray winter hours leafing through garden catalogs, scribbling on graph paper, asking partners odd questions about colors, forms, scents, and placement. I garden all year long.

Gardening has a lot in common with self-growth. This year I explore so much more of this with my eyes wide open, aware, observing, learning. I’m not going after some illusive standard of perfection; I love having my hands in the soil, connecting with living things, and simply enjoying the timeless wonder and delight of the garden. I have roses, herbs, bulbs, vines, trees, things for sun, things for shade, things that bear fruit, things that fill the air with wonderful fragrance…and two little chairs and a small table. On pleasant days I love to sit with my morning latte as the day unfolds, listening to peeping little frogs, chattering squirrels, the strident cry of the neighborhood hawk, and the songs of assorted little birds. It’s all very ordinary, I suppose, certainly the words don’t tell the tale with any power to really connect to the experience.

There have been years of my life when my garden was the entirety of my fragile hold on sanity. It isn’t fair to make a small plot of earth and a few vegetables and flowers do the heavy lifting involved in keeping me connected to what is good in life, but my garden has been there for me when I needed it, and never failed me. The garden connects me to my Granny, a woman of incredible will, wisdom, and humanity. It connects me to my Dad, too. I have no idea how old I was the first time I pulled weeds in the garden, but the first summer I did so for my Dad was early in 1973, I think. I remember sitting on the recently tilled ground, fretfully crushing clumps of dirt, instead of weeding, when I thought no one was watching – and mumbling about indentured servitude. I wasn’t exactly a fan of manual labor, and preferred the quiet of my room, and the excitement of a good book.  When adulthood hit me with tsunami-force after I joined the Army, it was the gardening that I yearned for, it was the gardening that I sought out for solace, and time and again even my life overseas found me with my hands in soil – potted plants on apartment balconies, tiny window box gardens, or a tree in a pot on a patio.

Seeds, like ideas, begin so small. They sit quietly, without evidence of their future size or usefulness, and wait. They wait for their moment. They wait for conditions to be right. Timeless and impersonal, they are still and small, all potential.  I love planting by seed.

The front garden is nice. Trim and pretty tidy, with a bit of brick path, another bit of slate path curving around the side, some shade, a lot of sun, and the small patch of lawn that is the suburban hallmark of home ownership. I brought in more (and different) roses, colorful wildflowers, pots of herbs, more roses, and feeders for hummingbirds and songbirds.  I love taking a garden space, and seeing it change over time as plants, and ideas, are added.  This spring I started big. Along the brick walk has been a low evergreen hedge of heather, and I like it ‘well enough’ I guess… perhaps not in that location, or maybe not so much of it, or…

Heather. Lovely, evergreen, not what I want in that space.

Heather. Lovely, evergreen, not what I want in that space.

As pretty as it is, it’s rather taking over that space, and just isn’t what I’m looking for in that spot. So… it’s out. I had a plan, before I got going…

Change presents so many opportunities.

Change presents so many opportunities.

In the dim light of dawn, early yesterday, I looked at the bare earth where the heather had been, and I felt just a bit sad for a moment, thinking of the experience of choosing to cull some living thing from a less than ideal circumstance, for lack of aesthetic, usefulness, or quality of character. I thought, too, of the experience of being culled…laid off from a job, fired, divorced, or any number of similar unexpected changes of life that I’ve faced. How easy it can be to take it very personally.

I considered my plan for that garden bed, clearly no longer ‘a hedge’ of any sort at all. I selected flower seeds with care; a variety of colorful California poppies, hybrids and fancy ones, and I chose some dark leafed kale for dense green vegetation – pretty and useful – and planned groupings of gladiolus with their bold colors and ‘reach for the sky’ approach to life. I’m hoping the new plantings are light-hearted and fun, a playful foreground for my Graham Thomas rose in the background. This year he will begin to stretch out in the front bed, reaching for his full size. I enjoyed putting down the earliest seeds in the afternoon…and like a little kid, I’ll check every day for seedlings, even though I know it will be days. 🙂

There is always more to do in the garden. Each year I get started at the end of February, thinking for just a moment “am I starting too soon”? It seems to work out just fine, though, and surely the slugs are already busy… they know spring when they feel it. lol.

Slug life... there's probably a metaphor here.

Slug life… there’s probably a metaphor here.