By Conny Manero
You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.
In the weeks following my divorce, my once neatly tended garden turned into a near jungle. The grass stood at least a foot high, the flowerbeds were overgrown with weeds, and the whole place had a dry, deserted look to it. Looking out the window one morning, I saw two of my neighbors huddled together, looking at my garden, talking, and shaking their heads with disapproval. I knew my garden was a mess, but then, so was I.
Even though the marriage hadn't been the happiest one, and I should have been relieved that the fighting was finally over, I felt sad and desolate. When we married we had loved each other so much. We had been together for nearly twenty years. What had happened to us?
Five years into the marriage we had bought a house in a newly developed area. The house itself was beautiful, but the garden was atrocious. By any stretch of the imagination it couldn't even be called a garden. Over the years we had planted and sowed, weeded and watered, until at last our garden was the envy of the neighborhood. And now it was a shadow of its former glorious self.
"Mom, we have to do something," my fifteen-year-old son Dieter said halfway through May. "We can't have the place looking like this. Let's clean up the garden and plant some things. Everyone has tulips and narcissus and those purple flowers — what are they called again?"
"Right, irises, and we have nothing."
"The garden is a mess, honey," I said. "Nothing will grow in there now."
"Then let's clean it up," he said. "We'll do it together."
I wanted to, but it seemed like an enormous job and I didn't feel up to it. I didn't feel up to anything. Some days it was an effort just getting showered and dressed.
Seeing his anxious face, I agreed to the job, but I wondered how the two of us were going to manage turning that wilderness into anything halfway decent looking. The grass was so tall and there were so many weeds. It was going to take weeks to get everything done.
"Don't look at the whole thing," Dieter said when we were outside. "Pick a flowerbed and concentrate on that. I'll get started on the grass. Whatever we don't finish today, we'll finish tomorrow."
So I did. I got a bucket and a trowel from the garage and got started with a flowerbed nearest to the house. As I dug, Dieter mowed.
It was hard dealing with just that one flowerbed, but seeing Dieter so hard at work I knew I had to keep going. We were going to do this together, so I had to do my share. After a while I found that I started to enjoy myself. Smelling the scent of fresh cut grass and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin was a welcome change to watching TV all day.
At noon the lawnmower fell silent. When I looked up I noticed that a good portion of the grass had been cut.
"Done for the day?" I asked Dieter.
"Time for lunch," he said. "Aren't you hungry? I am."
As a matter of fact, I was hungry, which was also a change. More often than not I skipped lunch because I didn't feel like eating.
"You got a lot done," I said over cheese and tomato sandwiches.
"So did you," Dieter said. "That flowerbed is starting to look good."
"It's just soil," I shrugged. "Without flowers it's not even a flowerbed."
"For now, yes," he said, "but we could go to the garden center and get some flowers."
I nodded. "We could."
"Do you want to take a nap or shall we carry on?" he asked, putting our plates into the sink.
"Let's carry on," I said, and found that I was actually looking forward to going outside again. "I want to finish that patch today."
Every day we did a little, and once all the grass was cut, Dieter joined me in the flowerbeds. Some days we only worked an hour, some days we worked the morning, and some days — when Dieter was back at school — I found myself working alone.
I can't say that I went through the days singing, but I did get up in the morning with more enthusiasm. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner because I had an appetite again, and at night I slept like a log.
At the garden center I bought roses and dahlias, asters and daisies, freesias and gladiolus, and my all-time favourites, pansies.
There had been a time when I couldn't stand the sight of pansies, when their cheerful faces mocked me and I much preferred the company of a weeping willow. Not anymore — now I was attracted to pansies again, and I was going to plant them on either side of the driveway. They were my "Welcome Home" flowers.
Sometime in June I was outside watering the roses when one of my neighbors came outside and smiled. "Looking good, my dear," she said. "You and Dieter have performed a near miracle. You really brought that garden back to life."
As I glanced over the trees, shrubs, and flowers I noticed the pansies bobbing their yellow and purple faces in unison.
I felt good, for the first time in a long time. I actually felt like my old self again. I wondered, had Dieter and I brought this garden back to life, or had it brought me back?