Friday, March 21, 2014

In the Midst of Winter, How Does Your Garden Grow?

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
- Albert Camus

I’m staring at a stick, poking up from a foot of snow. I think it used to hold ground cherries. Now it’s bare and stripped. This is the first time I’ve pulled my boots on, bundled up and headed out into the backyard to see what toll the raging winter has taken on my first garden.

I can make out the brief outline of the garden beds I painfully built last summer. Now they hold a delightful box of snow and dirt. “At least those walls held up,” I think.

It is bittersweet to look upon the garden. Part of me is filled with hope and potential. New season, new varieties to choose and new bounty to collect. “I’d love to grow Achocha this summer. I’ll stuff them with cheese.” Another part of me is melancholic. A muscle memory stirs - both figuratively and literally, cause I moved an awful lot of bricks to build these beds. But I created this garden with my husband, from whom I am now separated. Our house - our garden - is now on the real estate market. The thaw is coming, but I haven’t decided where I’m going. Will I have some green space come summer?

I laugh a little, thinking about my new garden and what I might grow. What would be appropriate for this transitory time in my life? “Lazy Housewife Bean,” I snort to myself. “Love Lies Bleeding, Moneymaker Tomato, Double Standard Corn, Red Self-Heal and Heartsease.”

I walk back to my sliding glass door to return to the warmth. My cat Rogue is ready to make a break for it as I put my hand on the door handle. “It’s spring,” she must be thinking, “let me out! I’ve been cooped up in here with you all winter!”

The next day, I’m telling my mother over a farmer’s lunch of pickled eggs and stew about my proposed garden plans. Her eyes narrow slightly - something she does when she’s choosing her words carefully - and she half-smiles. “That’s a bit of a cynical garden, don’t you think?” I teasingly ask if she had a better idea. “Cupid’s Dart. Love-in-a-Mist.” she shoots back. Point taken, Mum. Dad pipes in now. He’s jazzed and thinks we should make a new collection. “What, like the The Single Girl’s Garden Collection?” He’s chasing this idea now and wonders how to make it. “It’ll be great,” I say, egging him on. “I mean, each packet only needs one or two seeds, right? You’re only cooking for one.” He laughs, but then stops to honestly consider it. “Not happening.” Mum says, putting a much needed period at the end of all this tomfoolery.

But the conversation gets me thinking. Just like in The Secret Garden, all I want is a little bit of earth to plant a seed and watch it grow (I’m definitely singing this song in my head right now as I type this). A touch saccarine, maybe even cliche, but the thought of planning my next garden - wherever it will be - is an exciting one. I am looking forward to Celeriac Soup, with ingredients from my own green space like Evergreen Bunching Onions and Purple Top White Globe Turnips. And you know what? Forget the Forget-Me-Nots. Because gardening can be my therapy - along with wine, coffee and chocolate. So in the midst of all my Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherries, I’ll sneak in a Sweet Chocolate Pepper.

- Rachel