Thursday, April 2, 2009

In my Mother's Garden

Gardners come at it much like other hobbies: it depends. I always notice people's yards: some are precise and manicured; some hapless; some forgotten. Many mean next to afterthought or marketing idea. Plants just living along side humans and no connections between.

Not mine. No way. Mine is sentimental; a work in progress. When I moved into my house 14 years ago, I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest son. I was large. I lumbered. A young mother of two and one on the way. I had just lost my Mother a few months before and I missed her with an ache that I still cannot completely describe. She was the person who loved me no matter what; who really wanted to hear what I had to say and who adored my babies as much as I. I thought her a Cherokee princess, as she used to brag that she was; a woman larger than life. Whes she got sick one year after my second child was born, her eyes began to gaze somewhere far away and she slipped away.

I began to consider my own garden, and of course of my Mom's passion for plants. She loved them all, especially the obscure, the tenacious, the unusual. She was the plant rebel. Not the garden club woman, but the thief, the rebel, the messy gardner. Nothing in her yard was as it should be-no trimmed hedges or uniform annuals. She preferred the odd and unruly wild flower; the native shrub that did not often find itself in formal gardens. In fact she often stole plants where ever she happened to find them: at the arboretum or sunken garden. We would be driving along and she would scream for me to stop, and she would dart out of the car and dig up some plant she fancied. She would take them home and plant them and they either grew or languished, depending on their moods, in her little yard in Kerrville. I loved that she stole so many of her plants; it was a testimony of her belief that Mother Earth had her own plans; that the rules we made so silly in the grand scheme of things. As the Aboriginals say, we do not own the land; the land owns us. God must grin at such ardure.

Perhaps I am not such a brave rebel as my Mom. I inherited the spirit but not the wildness of her ways. Seventeen years after her death, I have a lovely, intimate garden. It is made up of plants, bushes, and trees. Bulbs, flowers, and shrubs. Each one came from somewhere that I actually know quite well.

Yellow irises from Mary down the road. She has lovely flowers and a terrible husband. Both show in her eyes. The Fall Asters came from Uncle Bob, just before he died of liver cancer. He smiled more that anyone I know and had wet, relentless kisses for any baby. My Linten Rose I bought. It was the year I was baptised with all my children at a small Methodist Church in Blanco, Texas. I read Annie Lamotte all year and was filled with the Holy Spirit. My lovely asparagus were planted the first year here with the help of my husband. His heart was still wit me in those days. There are so many more gifts of love that ended up in embedded in the good earth of my yard.

My Climatis came from my last home. It sprang up it the middle of a St. Augustine yard the week my Mother died. I call it Mom's flower, because I think it heralded her departure. I could go on and on. My plants are my family tree; my living lineage. They mark my loyalties and are a sure trail from my heart back to each person I love.

Oddly, the only plant that I have ever mistreated was by accident. I unintentionally ran it over with my lawn mower a couple of months after my husband left me for my best friend. She had given it to me. God may not interfer with free will, but He sure knows how to work a clutch.

Late in the evenings, on warm Texas nights, I stroll through my yard under the brilliant moon and look at my plants. I quietly acknowledge each gift and the giver. None were stolen, but all have stolen my heart. I think that my Mom would find me a bit sentimental and sappy, filled with the Cherokee spirit as she was and the native spirit that whispered quiet rebellions to her. As my aging house and garden begin to mirror my own physical changes; indeed as I walk a little slower late at night, I can see the heaving breath of nature as sure as my own breath. My plants are my story of friendship unleashed and a full life lived.