Tuesday, May 13, 2014

She's B-a-a-a-c-k

It’s Spring! The birds are singing, the jasmine is perfuming the air, the days are warm and sunny and I am ignoring the vegetable plants at the garden store. Oh, sure. They sit there shoulder to shoulder on their newly hosed shelves promising a bounty of luscious ripe beefsteak tomatoes, baskets of plump glossy eggplant, and vines heavily laden with beans…long and deeply green. No.  Fool me once. After last year’s harvest of two eggplant and a yellow cherry tomato I refuse to be conned by the leafy devils. They can just go ahead and break someone else’s heart this season.  I'll rely on the Farmer's Market.

 But flowers! I can do flowers.  Flowers have always seemed fairly independent – just a little watering and a little deadheading and voila.  I had no intention of trotting over to the garden center this Saturday but the thought came to me as I was doing errands that, on such a beautiful day, it was the place that made the most sense.

Years and years ago - what seems now like a lifetime ago because it was - I gardened.  I grew flowers.  I spent every weekend outside planting and pulling and watering and coaxing.   On my birthday I would receive gifts like garden gloves, spades, clippers, sun dials, garden figures.  One day while I was in the garden tending to a mound of Lantana, my next door neighbor ran over to tell me he had seen a hummingbird!  "A humming bird!" he exclaimed.  With my pruners I pointed to the feeder I set up between our yards.  "Yes, they've been invited."  It was a simple encounter, but seeing him so excited made me happy and I've remembered it ever since.  Sadly, I think that was the last year I had hummers come to visit.

Life is fluid and things change.  Sometimes (perhaps often) one gets thrown a curve ball and one's focus has to change as well.  And in all that changing and figuring out and thinking hard and working even harder, little bits of yourself can get chipped away.  It is almost imperceptible because the process is a slow one; but, it is a steady one.  The truth is I had larger problems to solve than leaf mold. As a result the beds got buried under seasons of autumn leaves and eventually gardening gifts seemed impractical.   Oh, every now and then I'd plant something in a pot or two but I never really returned to what I would call gardening gardening.  That full-throttled, hearty digging, compost enriching, all-morning pruning, water soaked dirt fest.  I stopped spending winter days looking through seed catalogs.

The happy news is that caught in time that fragmented and tangential change of course can once again be set right.  It's like waking from a long nap and finding that the light has adjusted.  It is brighter or darker, more golden or more fiery.  Different...yes.  But it is still all around and helping things to grow.

And thus awakened from my nap I spent the morning at the garden center considering the way the violet petunia looked with the chartreuse creeping jenny and debating if the dusty miller could get along with the orange Gerbera.  I felt the pieces falling into place and I was once again on vaguely familiar ground. True, I had forgotten all the Latin names for the plants - something at which I was fairly proficient in the long-ago.  But I recognized their faces and eventually we will become familiar friends once again.  Admittedly it's just a small beginning, but I hope to stick with it.  Outside is such a nice place to be and when I look over the terrain I envision all sorts of possibilities.  Real gardeners are always looking for places to turn new earth.  I just might be signing up for those seed catalogs after all.

I'm also sending out fauna invitations.  I bought a bag of small bird seed (millet and the like) and one bag of Black Oil Sunflower seeds.  Although my feeder is supposed to be squirrel-proof, I saw one very clever fellow hanging upside down by his hind legs and scooping out a pawful this morning.   I am on the hunt for a baffle that will slip over the stand.  I try to discourage squirrels since they are apt to rent out my attic during the winter and are very undesirable tenants.  The cardinals honed in right away.  Who else might come?  In hopeful anticipation I brewed up a batch of nectar.

Coming back to gardening feels good.  Coming back feels right.  And, with enough enticement perhaps the hummingbirds will come back as well.  Perhaps I should hang out a sign, "All Organic and Home Brewed."  It might work.


  1. Coming back on a small scale sounds perfect to me. I imagine you doing just a little puttering and enjoying your flowers. As for the hummingbirds, if they're like mine, they WILL return. Thanks for reminding me to get out my hummingbird feeder. And inhale a little jasmine for me, please. I do love the way you look at the world.

  2. Tinky, puttering is a very good description of what I'm planning. I hope to eventually start clearing some brush - although I'd like to leave some of it because it acts as a screen for one whole side of the backyard - where I can plant some shade-loving perennials. My lot is fairly large, and can be overwhelming. But bit by bit is the ticket. And the jasmine is heavenly!

  3. Hooray! I loved your post and of course endorse all gardening endeavors 100%! I know what you mean about coming back to gardening. When I first moved into my house it was full-on huge veggie garden and flowers and what else can we do? And then after a few years I started cutting back and cutting back and each year doing less and less, never really stopping completely but the vegetable garden disappeared completely and it was only beds of flowers and native plants with very small expansions. But something clicked back on a few years ago and I am so glad because I didn't realize how much I missed it. And my re-found enthusiasm has rubbed off on my husband and even the neighbors are enjoying it because they get the extras. Hooray for growing things! Good luck with your squirrels, you know squirrels and I locked in mortal combat but at least they have had the decency to never invade my house.

  4. Stef, reading your posts about gardening - whether it be about winter seed catalog dreaming or worm-farming, raised beds or plant sales - are the real inspiration for my return to a life of dirty nails! I kept thinking about the enthusiasm you and Bookman have and remembered that once upon a time, I shared that enthusiasm. And I wanted it back. So, thanks, my friend. Oh...and thank you, too for introducing me to Rebecca Solnit. After reading your post today I went to the library down the block during lunch and got The Faraway Nearby and A Field Guide To Getting Lost. I also learned that I can walk two full city blocks while reading and NOT get hit by a bus. I'm beginning to feel I can do anything!!

    1. Oh Grad, you are so kind! Too bad we live so far apart and can't spend time in the other's garden! I am glad you have fallen in love with Solnit and discovered you talent for walking and reading on a city street without being run over! I've not read Field Guide to Getting Lost yet, I really want to after the Out of the Woods book. Solnit is popular in my library system so I am on the waitlist of Field Guide and looking forward to it. At least I have her new book to hold me over!

  5. I'm so glad you are getting lots of pleasure out of your garden - most of all because it signals your own return to engaging with the world. We all duck out sometimes - been there, done that. I think sometimes we have to go under because the coming back out can feel so delightful. Grad, I always read your posts, but quite often I can't get my comments accepted. I have heard that wordpress and blogger dislike one another, which is all well and good but not when it gets in the way of blogger communication. Someone needs to march them up to one another and get them to shake hands...

  6. Litlove, and I tried to comment to your comment and my blog would not let me! I think the world is going mad. But hopefully you'll stay tuned in and maybe someone smarter than I can fix these crazy, rogue blogospheres.

  7. As Thomas Moore says, gardening is a soulful occupation.

  8. Shelley, easy for him to say. He had servants! :>