Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In the garden with ghosts

For me, the day the window boxes go up and the vegetables go in, and the geraniums make it into pots on the porch... that is the day winter turns to summer. It is my own personal solstice. Gardening is magical. Like cooking. I feel the past in it. I feel the present and the future.

My husband and I are both home on Mondays and so yesterday we decided to plant. He is a tidy man, and so our yard is tidy too. It is a small lot, but it is our tiny bit of pardise. His lawn is immaculate, perfect, and so green it is almost black. The pebbles around our pool are replenished every summer. The porches are coated with fresh paint, the sheds organized. But he understands my need for chaos, and so I am allowed flowerbeds along the perimeter of the house, front to back, as well as pots and planters of all shapes and sizes. And as he knows my whimsical nature, he understands that I like to plant flowers and vegetables together, and prefer wild roses and moon-flowers, lavender and even chicory (which is a weed) over the usual, stayed, border plantings. My beds are crazy and colorful and remind me of my children. He is always there, though, putting a tarp underneath me so that I don't mess up the driveway with potting soil; digging the holes for the new perennials so they will take better; mulching all around me and after me so the weeds won't ruin my hard work. How chaos loves order, how I love Bill.

And so, as I gardened and my hands went deep into rich soil, I felt his hands on mine as if he were behind me, hugging me and guiding my fingers to do it "the right way" even though he was in the back yard digging holes and putting food on the grill and I was in the driveway on the tarp with my pots and window boxes. And even though my daughters were playing nearby and were in no way helping, I felt them inside of me too, telling me their favorite color combinations and what will help create the memory of beauty that will be the summer of 2009, the summer that won't happen again. It will only be this year that we will be who we are right now. A snapshot of time.

When we were done, and all was in place and cleaned up, we ate dinner and bathed the very dirty children. And as is our practice, we turned in early like old folk. But I woke up at 12:56 am and could not go back to sleep. I was thinking about the day before, about my sore loser adventure, about the new friends I am making in the virtual world of writing, about the busy week ahead at work. I couldn't stop thinking so I went outside. The sea air was cold but I could smell the salt. It was very dark, but my eyes adjusted and as I decided to venture from my porch and walk around looking at everything we planted that day. To see it in the night.

As my bare foot hit the grass I began to feel them, the ghosts, all around me. This land belonged to the Quinnipiac Indians (the momauguin part of the tribe) long before there were lawns like this, but in that quiet midnight step I felt one with them. With a mother up at night walking on this same ground. And then the settlers when the area was called Dragon. And then the immigrants.

As I walked through the garden and leaned in close to look at the flowers and plants, I felt my own ancestors. One grandmother is in the tomatoes, the other in the annual hibiscus we planted. My mother is the morning glory, my father is the wild rose, my godfather the faithful and all encompassing trumpet vine.

And then it occurred to me that the ghosts of the future live there too. In the plans that we have, Bill and I of being grandparents who have a peach tree and who will walk this small yard and pick raspberries and asparagus and tell them stories of their mothers when they were young. And even farther than than, when the house is swallowed by the sea, we will still live here, lingering in the love we shared with the earth and the children and the sky and each other.

The ghosts were stepping with me on the stepping stones we scavenged from the beach, to the side yard where the dog used to do his business, but as he is dead now, this area is clear and ready for a hammock and some beach grass. And I remembered him, only dead a month but he is with us, and it made me happy/ sad to think of this summer he will never see... but he was blind, so he wouldn't have seen it anyway. He can see where he is now.

When I went back inside I was at peace, and the vastness of history made me sleepy.

That is what it is, a garden, it is a place full of stories and sweat and history and memory. It is a worthwhile thing.

This morning leaving the house early I checked once more to make sure the squirrels were not at their mischief again. The plants were still there. And I noticed for the first time that nothing holds a dew drop like a lupine leaf, nothing.

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