I started working on the garden the very first summer in the house. Adding, planning, planting and pulling. I didn’t know what half of it was! I just took what I liked and pulled what I didn’t. We had a kind neighbour who came over to help me quite a bit, but mostly I just dug in, experimented, and learned from my mistakes.
When we got married we were already established in our home and had our first baby. We asked our closest friends and family to come, but felt that gifts were too much to ask. Instead we asked everyone to bring a bulb, or seeds to their favorite perennial flowers. The symbolism of course being the start of something new and lasting. That was 8 years ago.
Last week I was out in the garden, digging a dry creek bed (think decorative irrigation). It was a BIG job. As I dug I was conscious of preserving at least a section of every plant. I can’t honestly say I remember who gave us what; but I know there is a lot of love in this garden. I reflected on all my successes and failures. I have often joked that I have a brown thumb. Though I love to garden I pretty much count on hearty, drought resistant perennials, and my neighbours down spout! I don’t water, hardly ever weed, and I still don’t know much at all about plants. I just love digging in the dirt and watching things bloom.
I wondered how many times I have planted, pulled and replanted trying to figure out what would grow where, and taming the stuff that was out of control. I laughed, remembering the time I transplanted a big beautiful stalk from the back to the front of my yard only to have a neighbour tell me that was a weed. I was embarrassed, but I still thought it was beautiful. I noticed that I have a heavy preference for the simple, like daisies (my all time favorite) and purple cone flowers. That many of my flowers are in the garden because they remind me of the people I love. Gladiolas for Grandpa, Tulips for Grandma, Dusty Asters for Mom, Lily of the Valley – my sisters flower. I remember planting all the little crocus bulbs with Trystan when he was 3 or 4. Two hundred and eleven (Yes, we counted every hole, every bulb). He chatted and told stories for hours as we dug in the dirt. Many a squirrel has visited to steal their share of those bulbs over the past few years. Still – every spring – we begin with a little pop of violet and yellow. It puts bounce in your step on those crisp, damp spring mornings. Reminds you that warmth is on it’s way.
The more I thought about it, the more I was struck by the wealth of connection and nostalgia these stems and petals offer. I was also struck by the deep parallels between the process of the garden, and marriage itself.
It is not easy. A garden needs tending, and effort. You need to get in there and figure things out. You need understand the conditions you are working with and be prepared to adapt. YOu can learn a little from observing, but for the most part – it’s experience. Trial and error. There are storms, and droughts, and pest invasions that can be stressful and damaging. If you want things to come back strong it takes a lot of attention and loving care. Sometimes you make big mistakes. Things die back and you fear you’ve lost everything. You have to decide if you are going to let it go and start from seed or dig in with all your energy to coax life back into what’s left. It’s in the moment of panic that we tend to evaluate. Make changes. We learn from those mistakes and try very hard not to make the same ones again.
Sometimes it gets too hot and you find your garden wilting, or too cold and nothing can blossom. In those times we have to be patient, understanding, and hopeful. We try to protect the garden, offer as much as we can, and look forward to a change of climate. We have to trust that all our efforts have help to put down strong enough roots to see us through until things get a little better.
If marriage is a garden, children are the perennial flowers. Some are hearty and drought resistant, some need great care and specific conditions. We take such pride in watching them grow. The seasons of blossom are joyful and amusing. We watch, year after year. Waiting for the right time, when they are ready to split. When someone else will take a little part of our carefully tended garden, share our beautiful flower, and lovingly place it amongst their own. That is what we wish. It’s all about the circle of life. Watching nature perform it’s miracle, over and over.
So, what about our partners? What role do they play in the keeping of the gardens?
Some of them, are gardeners too. They toil and fuss right along side us, working to make everything as right as it can be. Some are more like the rain and the sun. They keep it all going and growing. There are some who get distracted. They tromp down the flowers, then look around themselves wondering how on earth they keep making this mistake. Others seem a bit lost. Unsure of what they want, what they can offer, but sure in their love. Of course, there are the one’s who would give anything to make things glorious, but alas, weeds…the brown thumbs. It’s a hard go for the brown thumbs.
I am one of the lucky ones. My husband is a gardener. He digs deep even when the going gets tough. He sees potential even when the conditions are tricky. He will try again and again until he finds a way to make things grow. If I am tired, he will stay with me until the work is done. If I am overwhelmed he will gently sit me down for a rest. He doesn’t just see my passion. He shares it. He fosters it and fuels it! He is also the sun. (He will tell you himself! lol) Bright and exciting, warm and inviting, sometimes too much to handle. He beams light and life into everything and everyone (sometimes right in their eyes 😉 but never seems to burn out.
A good garden is never perfect. There is always something to mind and tinker with. A good garden may be beautiful, but that is a matter of opinion. Everyone sees beauty differently. The important thing is the way it makes you feel. A good garden instills a sense of peace and satisfaction. It is a place, all your own. A safe haven. A place you retreat to when you need a moment to be at ease. A good garden is built upon a bed of your love and grace. Shaped by your imagination, and kept alive with your devotion and hard work.
A good garden is not easy, but it is a joyful thing.
As I was finishing my work, I looked again at all the many flowers and thought about the contributions. The bulbs and seeds from friends, clippings and splits from neighbours. Gifts from our parents. I have picked up little additions through the years, at community sales and local nurseries. I was struck all over again. Our marriage has grown and developed in the exact same way. Evolving over time, influenced by the gifts, contributions and privileges of family, friends and the community around us. I think, this is a most beautiful parallel, and am romanced by the idea.
Oh! My little dry creek? I built that to divert the water so my home would be protected and my flowers would be fed. I will let you decide for yourself how to see that. It fits though – doesn’t it? My marriage is a garden, and I LOVE digging in, then watching things bloom.