I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
~nathaniel hawthorne, mosses from and old manse
both my parents are passionate about their garden. as a child, i used to hate doing “yard work” and i couldn’t quite get a handle on why my parents loved it so much. to me it was hard, uncomfortable and awkward work, when i would much prefer to sit inside and read from a favorite book with a delicious snack.
as i grew up, i loved the products of other people’s gardens. there is no place i would rather be most sunday mornings, than at a local farmer’s market. it is fantastic to slice up a lemon cucumber that you buy at the market, fresh, and still a little dusty from the ground. if i could sustain the lifestyle, i would buy all of my produce and dairy at local, outdoor markets. even in the dead of winter, contending with my umbrella and in my heaviest coat, i would love to purchase the winter produce available and serve delectable seasonal foods.
when i would visit my mother during the tenure of my first “real” job, she would always send me how with a bouquet of beautiful flowers from her garden to keep at my desk. having these cheery and beautiful flowers in front of me helped me survive that first year in the “real” world, working at a job i despised. it was comforting to have them there, and to think of home, beauty, and my family while trudging through tedious paperwork, reminding me that i had a life outside of the office that i could take joy and pleasure in.
the joy of gardening did not come to me until i was responsible for a small flower box and garden area at the apartment complex my husband and i managed. as it was located in the city, it didn’t have much room for flower beds, or any “serious” kind of garden. having never had an interest in working with soil in my life (outside of a brief stint in geology class), my mother came to help me plant primroses in the flower boxes. later in the spring, together we planted azalea, hydrangea, geraniums, fuchsias, dahlias, and other summer flowers in the little garden.
as the summer faded, i planted winter pansies and mums in the flower boxes. i started to feel maternal about my little plants. though i often killed them, when a little pansy would come back from the brink of death and sport one tiny, purple, bud, i would feel choked with pride, feeling so proud of the tiny flower that made it back to life.
of course, maintaining someone else’s garden is not the same as owning your own. when my husband and i finally moved into a unit that had a little deck, it was our first home together that had private access to the outside world. we went to work planing ten, or so, little pots to grow herbs and flowers in. we planted parsley, oregano, thyme, french AND english lavender, curry, spicy thai basil, mint, and roman chamomile. i planted my favorite flowers, dahlias, pansies, and poppies. we procured a little cafe set and umbrella, and created our own little piece of paradise, made up of a thousand little leaves and buds.
it was a little disappointing when we realized the curry we’d bought was not edible, but aromatic, and that we wouldn’t be making ourselves a delicious marsala with home-grown herbs. but, that was all the more reason to frequent our favorite curry house a half-block down the way. but it is a fantastic feeling to slice through our self-grown herbs to spice and flavor weekend feasts-for-two as we sit together, eating our dinner off our wedding china, watching the evening fade into night.
it’s so satisfying to pick the pansies and press them between the pages of my english literature anthologies from college, or dry the lavender i grew, to scent the contents of my vanity drawers. when our wonderful friends visit us, it is fantastic to offer them mint or chamomile tea that was grown in our garden, made with boiling hot water in our green french press.
i love city life. i love to study at the cafe around the corner, walk to the market on sunday, catch the bus downtown, and walk through my neighborhood on my way to a fabulous bistro. but part of me always will long for a bygone life of gardening and growing my own food, keeping a home where i can sit outside in my garden each morning with a cup of english breakfast tea and toast, and gaze at the tangible products of all my love and hard work.
for now, sitting at my little cafe set, under my umbrella on my deck on lazy saturday mornings with my cup of tea, watching time go by in the city while i stop out of it for a moment, while the scent of my french lavender fragrences my morning routine, will have to suffice.