воскресенье, 31 марта 2013 г.


By Kathryn Roberts

Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.
~Sarah Ban Breathnach

I am the daughter of a master gardener. My mother kneels, dirty, digging, knowing not only where to plant and what, but why. Each spring and summer she nurtures the relationship of soil and seed and sun. Some years I watch, wondering at the work — the weeds and water and endless cultivation of earth. I marvel at the transformation she culls from the depths of half-dead potted plants salvaged from the clearance rack at the nursery. I don't understand this garden, this patient plucking and pruning for fleeting beauty. I don't understand her.
Growing up, I avoided the invitation to sit beside my mother as she planned her plots, as she leafed through catalogs of seeds and stems months before breaking ground. As a late spring frost caressed the stems of the upcoming grass, and I bemoaned the prolonging of winter, my mother prayed the bulbs she planted last year would withstand the weather and the ground would thaw to release life and allow her hands to help it along.

My mother tried to include me despite my disinterest. She bought me an orchid to grow inside. I photographed it and soon forgot it. Each February and March she left the catalogs out where I could browse them, knowing I loved the roses and iris best. When I wanted to arrange flowers she indulged me, allowing me to cut the stems despite my inattention as she tried to explain the flowers and their features. Still, I was indifferent. Gardening was her passion: her dirt, her insects, and her identity... not mine.

As I aged I lost interest in our family's traditional Mother's Day tour of nurseries. I begged my father to let me stay home, to hide in my room with my music. He refused, reminding me of the respect I owed my mother, imploring me not to ruin the moment, the day. I trudged along, unable to understand the allure of the seven varieties of the same plant and how different they could possibly be. Pick one, I thought, and we can go home. What does it matter what you choose?

This year I turned twenty-four, the age my mother was when she married my father. I envision her then as a young woman, free-spirited, with her soft brown eyes concealing a spark. Now I see her in her early eighties, wearing polyester and big-rim glasses that she puts away when she sings, her voice carrying across the living room she shares with my father — a sad but satisfied aria speaking to the dreams she loved but passed up. In the evening she is content to share dinner with a husband who loves her beyond this world, so deeply he'd ask twice for her hand. And at night, when she lies in bed, her creativity simmers below her sleep, seeking an outlet that will augment the life she's chosen.

This year I go to my parents' lake house, where they are readying the rooms and grounds for rental. I know the final rush is relentless, with days and nights of cleaning, repairing, and prepping. The sky is blue when I arrive despite the sprinkles that followed me for the full forty-five minute drive. My mother is gardening; I grab gloves and stand next to the flowerbed, not knowing plant from weed... not understanding. She says I don't have to, uncertain from years of my avoidance, my apathy. I want to, and I begin to yank the dandelions from the ground, the only weed I recognize as such. She smiles and points out another weed, explaining its invasive roots run as a vine under the surface. As we work, she tells me of dividing plants and the miracle of yielding four or five from one. She shows me how to loosen the root ball at the base of the plant to encourage it to grow; tells me how you have to release the roots to teach them to spread.

As I watch my mother at home in her garden and mimic her movements, I finally understand. I am the daughter of a master gardener. My mother digs deeply through the soil as she cultivates her spirit, her perfectionism put to bed with the bulbs and blossoms, her desire to nurture fulfilled in the foliage of a variegated hosta. She still sings, accompanied by a chorus of clematis and columbine, of black-eyed Susans and Siberian iris and goat's beard. She is a master gardener and her hands have left her heart in the earth and in the roots — and in me.


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