I was raised in my grandmother’s garden. It was a large plot through a rickety gate, over a wobbly board that you teetered on to traverse the irrigation ditch. I remember it being like crossing over from one world into another. She spent hours growing vegetables that we would pick and eat right out of the garden, eat for dinner, or set aside to can. We’d spend hours more in a steamy summer kitchen taking turns crushing, sorting, destemming, deseeding, coring, and snapping to prep for the pressure cooker on the stove. While the food in the garden was to sustain our bodies, the flowers were to sustain our souls. Harsh conditions and a dry Colorado mountain climate were not always kind to either, but we worked hard for both, because both were necessary to thrive.
I’ve dabbled in gardening most of my adulthood. A city rooftop apartment garden, a strawberry and tomato patch at a rental house, some potted herbs in a kitchen window. But, it wasn’t until we owned our first home that I really began to dive in. We bought an old farm house on an acre of property in town, and we wisely waited a season and see what unfolded. Daffodils, day lilies, lilacs and iris! Even old strawberries popped up out in the field and at the base of we’ve-seen-it-all trees.
A 70 year old house on an acre of land has quite a gardening history and layers of attempts at this or that were everyhwere. The first years of gardening made me realized the extent to which my grandmother worked, and I was determined to live up to her. We mapped, we weeded, we planted and pruned, I beat back yucca, we watered and trimmed morning and evening after morning and evening. I scrutinized and criticized what needed to be added or changed. My obsession was so complete that when I walked by and a weed, I would immediately snag it out of the ground. It was pristeen. And I was exhausted. Was this what gardening was really all about? Was the magic garden of my childhood simply of product of innocence and youth? Another memory squelched by reality? Was this “adulting”!? How did she do it all?
Time and children, life and death, and the ups and downs of the every day have a way of shifting priorities for anyone and, eventually, the garden moved down the list. Weeds came up. Unintended plants grew where they may. Ivy spread and, before I knew it, my garden looked… well, just fine, actually. In fact, it was fuller, more robust. More full of life. Sure, I didn’t really want that tree to sprout so near the porch steps or that ground-cover to sprout over the to climb over the edging, but it it seemed more natural, more real. And, when I stopped over-thinking it so much and enjoying it more, it started to feel more like my grandmother’s garden. Because she didn’t do it all. She did what was needed at the time. And it was enough. So, to my grandmother’s garden I crossed over again. Where there is food for the body and flowers for the soul. And it is enough.
“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne