I grew up watching my grandfather growing roses, tending grapes and fruit trees. In the summer, he would wake me up early in the morning so we could pick figs from the trees in our back yard for breakfast. Around noon, after the day’s chores were done, the children would lie down, under the shade of one of the fig trees, to rest, while our mothers would sit nearby and gossip or knit – seeking respite from the heat. Often, they would tell us stories about wood fairies and how they could steal the mind of the unfortunate mortals sleeping under their favorite trees.
My childhood wasn’t easy but there was magic in the air. It was that magic that sustained me; the deep connection to the land and the myths and vibrations of old.
The days I spent trailing my grandfather, as he tended his garden, have fueled my love for all things blooming. Lately, these memories have been circling my mind; strumming at my heart chords. It’s been a long time and an ocean between the child lying under the grand fig tree, dreaming of wood fairies, and the woman I am today.
My grandfather died when I was fifteen. That’s how old my daughters are now. The fig trees, the grape arbor and the rose garden are long gone. These days, I tend my own garden and although New England isn’t very friendly to fig trees, the magic still holds. The garden takes hold of me; I dream of it in the winter and, come spring, it’s the first place I go to, tea cup in hand. It keeps me connected and grounded; dirty fingernails and all.
I began fancying myself as a gardener in my late twenties. My initial efforts failed miserably. Secretly, I was happy that grandfather wasn’t around witnessing his apprentice making a mess of things. I kept trying and failing and each time I learned something more.
I learned about soil and light and native plants. I learned about timing and letting go. I learned to collaborate. A garden exists in spirit form and manifests through the gardener, in due time. It’s always a work in process and transformation, based on nature’s cycles and rhythm. With each passing season, I’m watching my sense of perfectionism softening its grip. I’ve learned to be happy with my lot. Other people’s gardens can serve as inspiration but, in the end, my garden and I have our own things going and it suits us fine.
Our moods are interconnected. Sometimes I like things simpler than others. As I change and transform, so does my garden. There are certain things that don’t change; my love for fragrant blooms, herbs and roses. I learned what plants invite hummingbirds in my yard. I recognize the sounds they make and I know when to be still and watch them.
The other day, I started doing some fall clean up. I’m still hesitating cutting back the shasta daisies and the peonies. Their dry stalks are reminders of the glory of spring and high summer. I’m not ready to let go . . . just yet. The basil is gone but I brought some parsley and mint inside for the winter.
The garden is preparing for darker, colder days ahead and so am I. Each season comes bearing gifts but I have spring in my mind. Soon, I’ll start dreaming again.