Generations in the Garden

I looked out the back door and into my garden. On the bench under the fragrant pine trees, my young granddaughter sits. For a moment, time seemed to stand still, all sound ceases, and my eyes felt riveted to her beautiful blue eyes. In that moment, it felt as if she was seeing my garden, not just through her own eyes, but through the eyes of those before her. As they had, she seemed to have found beauty and solace wrapped in the arms of a garden. I was humbled to think that in this place where I had dug deep into the soil, literally leaving behind my sweat and tears, my first grandchild had also found the peace a garden seems to impart. My grandfather found this peace in his garden. Almost every inch of his yard had been turned into garden plots. It abounded with many varieties of flowers and vegetables. I doubt that was his intention in the beginning to have such a large garden. But little by little he had more garden, and less lawn. When no horizontal space was left, he found more space by looking vertically. Vines wandered up arbors, and flowers and vegetables draping down from baskets. Birds sang and squirrels ran in those places of splendor.

As an adult, I tried in earnest to recreate the taste only my grandfather’s carrots seemed to have. He would reach into the sun warmed earth, pull up a carrot, wipe most of the dirt off onto his dungarees, swish them under the hose, and start chomping. Their taste was exquisite! It took me many harvests to figure out what was missing with my carrots. I had been removing the tastiest parts, peeling away the tasty outside, including the soil the clung to my grandpa’s carrots. I learned many other lessons in his garden. The most important being that I was very special to this tall, craggy man. He always had time to explain anything to me. The only price to pay was to listen to his stories. And there were many, many stories.

During different decades, my father and I carved our own idea of a garden out of the same plot of land. During his turn, he reveled in his gardens bounty. It was another excuse to give gifts to his friends and neighbors. He knew that he could never use all those tomatoes he would harvest. All those plants he had painstakingly started from seed early in the season. He lovingly tucked them into the springtime soil. We knew it was never his intention to only have enough tomatoes, strawberries, or flowers for his family. He didn’t fool any of us. After he passed on, I took my turn with the same soil. I will never grow the tomatoes he did, nor garden the same as he did. He had a green thumb for veggies. My heart tends to go more towards planting flowers. I feel very close to my father and grandfather in this place.

While I toil in the garden, I now pause more often to enjoy what I have created. I sit to rest on the same old railroad tie he did, sweat dripping down my face. If I turn quick, I see a short, squat man hands in his suspenders watching me. Just as quickly, he is gone. And if I am really quiet, I too feel the generations of gardeners that have come before me, and I am filled with peace.

Published in Bottom Line News & Views January 18, 2017

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