Back to the Garden

Cris - Utica, New York
Entered on March 30, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: nature

At this time, when I could be doing pretty much whatever I want, I am pulling weeds. I’m cutting back dead branches, raking my fingers through wet soil, picking out dead leaves and flipping them over the fence, in this back yard garden. Right now this is what I care about: this small back yard garden.

It’s not my garden, and not my yard. It’s a rental property and I’m a visitor here. The aloe plant was “mine.” I grew it on my back porch, transplanting it into ever larger pots before I moved out of my apartment, and found a new home for it here. Also here is my pepper plant, a Mother’s Day gift. These are small, long, hot peppers. They start out lavender, turning pink, and then red. When bright red, they’re ripe and ready to eat.

It has been an unusual year, this year just passed. Some losses, some wins. Some projects completed that I never could have envisioned just two or three years ago. When I walk outside here, past the garden, to carry out the trash, a parade follows–or leads: my granddaughter, the cats. They want to be out here too, with the long legged birds that wade in the lake, or the little ones that chatter in the branches overhead; with the tiny lizards that scurry on the sun baked sidewalk; with the ducks gliding on the water’s glassy surface. The cats and my granddaughter, they never get tired of this place. Neither do I.

It’s been a year when “home” has been elusive, when I’ve been redefining the meaning of home, and a lot of other things, and sifting through what’s important and what’s not– the way I sift through this soil.

And so, despite the book I’ve completed, that I’d like to see published, and the other book incubating in my head and on scraps of paper, and the hard fought and hard won struggles of recent years; at a time when I could be doing pretty much whatever I want, this garden, these trees, the miniature cactus garden-within-the-garden, the banana plant and the palms, my granddaughter and the cats are what matter to me. This garden, this blue sky, these birds. At the risk of sounding nauseatingly sentimental, I’ll say it: If every person had a garden, this world would be a more beautiful place.

Here–especially here–as the days slide forward into summer, when heat and humidity chase most people indoors, I experience a more practical truth. If the world had more trees and fewer cars, the environment would be cooler–in more ways than one.

If everybody grew a garden, and everybody shared, nobody would have to go hungry.