If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. -Marcus Tullius Cicero
Gardening is an almost spiritual experience for me. The sun reddening my skin is my hymnal; my fingers in the dirt is my prayer; every carefully placed plant is a dream I leave in Mother Nature’s hands. To garden to believe in tomorrow.
I hadn’t realized until a few years ago, but I’ve always been rather attached to the land. Or at least as much as one can be, given our commercialized lifestyles. For a long time after I moved into Chicago, I sorely missed my parents’ country home – the quiet, the non-cultivated trees, being able to see the stars at night, and the mentality that we roll with the seasons instead of forcing heated or cooled air through our homes every time the temperature is less than perfect. I ached to go back to a place that didn’t feel contrived, that didn’t operate on concrete jungle rules. It took me a long time to realize that underneath that cold, carved stone was still the land that had nurtured me. It took a while for me to realize that even well-maintained sidewalks have weeds.
The first couple of years I spent out on my own were rough – I didn’t eat well, didn’t sleep enough and nearly crumpled under the real-word demands of bills and responsibility. And to a girl who’d helped her parents till long strips of family acreage for true gardens, growing single plants in pots out on the tiny apartment balcony seemed like a cheap counterfeit. I was disconnected from my earth mother, and suffered for it.
Fast forward a couple of years and a handful of moves later, and I was staring at a run down old house with a huge back deck and a fenced in backyard, hands cupping my pregnant belly and a grin on my face. We had turned the page to a new chapter, my new husband and I, and it was bright and full of flowery possibilities.
And then April came, and my visions of flowerbeds along the back fence shifted to precisely cut bouquets left at a marble stone with her name and one little date. Like any plant deprived of water and sunlight, I wilted. I wilted to the point of no return, hovering there for much longer than anyone ever should.
Until the morning I found daisies. As bittersweet as those beautiful little flowers were, I found enough air in my lungs to breathe again, and from there I was hooked. Carrot, zucchini, onion, kale – I grew them with the justification of lowering our grocery bill, but I didn’t stop there. I added raised vegetable beds, dozens and dozens of different pots and planting accessories. I added to the point of emptying our bank account more than once, and it was never enough.
When I finally reigned myself in I sat out on the back deck and surveyed my work. Some plants had been grown from seeds and others had been purchased as seedlings, but all of them were mine. Each one was full of words and tears I could never share, but planting each little bud made those pieces of myself real and gave me a chance to be free.
I might not be able to grow another baby, but I can grow plants. And in this imperfect world, that’s as close as I’m likely to get.