Tending to a Garden and a Life


<font color=blue>"MIS-ter Garibaldi!"<br><font col
Mar 2, 2000
Tending to a Garden and a Life
By Irene Virag

The bed where my Casa Blanca lilies flourish turned into a metropolis last year, and I had to divide the clumps this season. I had no place in my crowded garden for the unearthed plants and so I packed them off to readers. It was a way of saying thank you to people who sustained me. “Here’s something from my garden,” I was telling them. “Here’s something from my life."

The thought reinforced the way my garden and my life are entwined. It’s always been that way – ever since the first seedling went into the garden that used to be the middle of my front lawn. My garden is 5 years old. I’m in my fifth year as a cancer survivor. It’s no coincidence. I planted the garden when I was undergoing chemotherapy.

Every season since, I have found sanctuary in the place my husband and I call the Garden of Health and Joy. The garden has lived up to its name, and I have written often of my adventures within its boundaries. Now as I snip basil for dinner or cut a bouquet of roses or make room for a new vine called Cobea, I can’t help thinking about where I am in life – and where my garden is. Five years after a wild seed changed my life, my garden needs a little tweaking and so do I.

I’m not talking radical change. My soil is healthy and so, basically, am I. All was fine with my yearly mammogram and sonogram and I see my oncologist every three months. I love telling people I’m a five-year survivor. It’s a yardstick of sorts.

You could say my garden is lush. It should be. For five years, it’s been getting plenty of sun and ample water and lots of compost. You could even say it’s voluptuous. I like the sound of that – in his wilder moments, my husband says it about me.

But you could also say my garden is just a smidgen overgrown. As is more often than not the case, horticulture is imitating life. My garden is on the verge of growing out of bounds. I’m stressed, caught up in a new project. And higher powers are relocating our workstations for reasons that are difficult for the rest of us to discern. I’m adrift in a sea of boxes waiting to be moved. It’s a little like the garden. I like order. And I don’t know where everything is.

I can’t help thinking that if I can get the garden into better shape, I can do the same thing for myself. But it’s not a case of mere maintenance – the gym for me and deadheading for the daylilies. Time and age bring changes and decisions have to be made. They’re not always easy. I don’t know which is more painful – eliminating ice cream or pulling out the lady’s mantle.

My Platycodon is a good example. When the platycodon was young, it stood upright by itself, a mass of blue flowers that look like little hot air balloons. Now it flops over and needs support. When I tie it back, I feel as if I’m putting a free spirit in restraints. Instead, I’ll have to divide it or move it to the rear of the border. Or take the Queen Elizabeth roses on the arbors. Like Henny Youngman said, take them – please. They’re not living up to their promise – their legs are bare, the blooms are sporadic, and the new growth sticks up in uneven spikes. It’s like they’re having a bad-hair day.

Or consider the lavender that grows in the corners of the four vegetable quadrants. Its scent perfumes my soul but even though the bushes were trimmed back, they’re bordering on the invasive – intruding on the space reserved for eggplants and bush beans and peppers. The whole garden is organic – which matters to a breast cancer survivor – and the vegetables provide sustenance. I love the lavender, but the way it’s taking over reminds me of the way work can intrude on the personal space and quiet times that nourish me.

And what strikes me as I assess my garden and my life in this milestone year is that even though we are both straining at the seams, there are empty places within our borders. I forgot to plant the sunflowers, and the hollyhocks that once peeked over the corners of the fence have disappeared. The dahlias didn’t make it through the winter and I didn’t get around to replacing them. All these flowers are like old and dear friends I let myself lose contact with. Maybe this weekend I’ll call Martha in Mexico, my globe-trotting shopaholic friend who took me bargain-hunting from Cambridge to Copenhagen. Or perhaps I’ll e-mail Kit in North Carolina, who saw me through so many hard times and was there when I was fighting breast cancer.

The garden was born in the darkest of days and for five years, it’s always been a symbol of hope. It’s always called to tomorrow. I remember when I was in treatment, and I’d sit on a bench and smell the Casa Blanca lilies and watch the goldfinches and wait for a hummingbird. And wonder if I would see another season in the garden.

Now I don’t think about that so much. I just divide the daylilies and ponder where to move the lavender. I think about preserving my own health and joy. I have to keep tweaking my garden and my life.

Retyped and Dedicated to my dear friend, Cathy Cashman (3/23/56 - 8/12/01), who was also a co-worker and friend of the author.
Tulirose, what a beautiful and moving story. Thank you for sharing it with us. (((((((( Hugs )))))))) for you my friend.

Kim :)
Yes Tuli thanks a very moving story.

As I read this story, my mind kind of wanders in my our gardens. As I have said I have many gardens around the yard. Each one created during a troubling time in my life. So each garden is a reminder of things past. Some flourish, as I did, some struggle, as I struggled. But each one is a reminder of the strength I have inside of me.

So much of my life grows around me.
Thanks. It is kinda long for a post but I thought you guys might appreciate it and understand.

How beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing.....:D


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