Stepping Out: The First Bloom

I have been seriously gardening for almost 20 years, and yet I never tire of the surprises and gentle trowel-fulls of wisdom that show themselves in the practice.

Here is picture I took two days ago a small shrub my husband and daughter gave me last Mother’s Day (I wish I had made a note of its name).  This is the one bloom that has made an appearance so far.  Something about this tiny delicate flower amidst a tangle of  silent stems spoke to me.

Yes, that’s right.  I’m ready.  It’s my time.  Y’all comin’ or what?  No?  Maybe?  Well, OK.  Hope to see you out there.  I’m going!

The Hardscape Sculpture’s Last Days

 Winter is on the way out.

While it’s not politically correct, I confess I’m a little wistful about the departure of the cold, hard, linear beauty of the winter garden.

Something in the sculpture of the December to February landscape appeals to me as much as the softness of spring and the vibrating energy of summer.

It’s the same reason I have the desire to spend hundreds of dollars some day on a whale vertebra.  It’s why I love moose antlers and deer jaw bones and even looking at human skeletons sometimes.

The framework of life is strong.  It lasts well beyond the decay of frail leaves, skin, flower, blood.

The knowledge of age is that every tender shoot is to be enjoyed and cherished, but understood as temporary.  

Roots, rocks, branches, trunks….these remain.

I look forward to winter as its own type of spring, for I miss the outlines of life when they are covered for months in fluffy growth and thick blossoming spirals.

It is true – the fragrance of lemon thyme is intoxicating, the bite of chives and oregano welcome flavors in daily living soon.  They make the absence of clean cold air in my nose acceptable, and even allow me temporarily to forget how incredible that feeling is.

In winter, all is sleeping.   Life is resting, renewing, preparing.

The birds are focused, grateful and sincere in their visits to my feeder.  I still feed them in the summer, but they just come by for kicks.  In warm weather the berries and seeds are abundant, insects are plentiful, and every living thing is goofy with sunshine filling its eyes.

Life is poised on the edge of warmer, lusher days.  The garden is also not far from a time of spending, burning, headed inevitably to the lean hardscape sculpture of winter.  

I’ll miss you, beauty……..see you in about nine months.

Images credit: All photos by E. Gaucher, February 26, 2011

Life and Death (and Life) in the the Garden

The creation myth recorded in the book of Genesis is perhaps the most well-known ancient story of human origins.  By “story of our origin” I mean exactly that.  It is not science, it is a story.  It is a genuine and compelling myth, and many cultures have them.  I like this framing of myth from Wikipedia:

…….academic use of the term generally does not pass judgment on truth or falsity.  In the study of folklore, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form.  Many scholars in other fields use the term “myth” in somewhat different ways.  In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story.

One of the reasons I adore mythology is that it tends to illustrate more deeply Truth (capital T) than does dry fact.  For example, the layering of conflict, hubris, love, temptation, foolishness, desire and loss in the Greek myth of Icarus is difficult to match.  By using a factually “untrue” story, the Greeks say more about the human condition in a few words than most others have in volumes.

Our weeping mulberry tree in November

The garden presents itself in special ways this time of year.  There is so much to learn and appreciate year ’round, but something about the autumn season seems to lend itself especially well to talking about some of the most difficult topics.  My parenting philosophy is to use both myth and nature to teach my daughter as early as possible about life.  Decline and death are difficult topics for many when it comes to talking with young children, but I find that the more I expose my child to the garden, the more naturally and comfortably she seems to absorb the conversations.

All year long, we talk about fertility, and seeds, and conditions for life.  We talk about living things thriving where they get what they need, and withering where they do not.  We discuss intervention and non-intervention in the food chain (not easy, but good).  We respect the passing of worms, and bugs, and birds.  We thank the world for sharing its bounty with us, and we remind ourselves of our reciprocal role in respecting the systems around us.

The garden is a place of joy, and loss, and natural comings and goings.  It is, in fact, the perfect place.  All the more understandable that getting kicked out was the ultimate punishment for Adam and Eve……….and all the more True that our restoration there is a natural culmination to a journey lived outside. 

Welcome, winter.  Spring will surely be here soon.

Image credit: Elizabeth Gaucher

Life’s Own Rules

My friend Rick is an avid gardener.  As I drove past his house on the East End of Charleston a few years ago he called me to the yard and ran about with a spade asking, “Do you want this?  What about some of this?  These are great….oh, and these!”

I had just moved into a new house with a rather “Lowe’s Home Improvement Center” feel to the landscape.  I was chomping at the bit to bring heirloom perennials, herbs, ornamental specimen trees and pass-along plants to the space — the spontaneous encounter with Rick was perfect.

Around 5 years in the ground, this little plant blooms for the first time.

So this little guy has hung in there for 5 years, but has never done much more than poke out of the earth in the spring to say hello.  I had no idea it even could flower……and yet here we go.  Delicate, nearly hair-width stalks with tiny yellow buds.  Lovely.

The garden is a reminder of all things life.  You never know to what potential the roots reach, what genetic material is invisible to your eyes, and what the ideal conditions and time will produce.