88 Degrees in the Shade

It’s nearly 2:00 p.m. It’s hot–almost 88 degrees in the shade! I turned the hose upward to rain down upon me a few times. Now, I’m eating a piece of my famous chocolate cake as I write this. I planted two tomato plants and an Anaheim Chile Pepper. I watered everything. I won’t plant the herbs until my friend, Philip, is finished building the three-tiered redwood herb bed for my garden.

Today, it seems, I’m aware of choices–choosing for myself. I chose not to go to improv at Rochelle’s. I chose to go to Mary’s with Polly and friends to write poetry tonight. I chose to walk a wooded path up and down Stellar Way for over an hour. I then came home, grabbed a bite to eat, made phone calls and yes, gardening. Maybe I’ll paint the fence for half-an-hour and then take a bath. I have chosen to dismiss Timothy as my lover. I think that it’s right; however, there’s a big blank space where he once was. I have longings to create home and family. How would that look at this time of my life, I wonder. The garden is my teacher (and life is my teacher).

A deer thundered through the brush when I got too close on my hike. A big, tawny, beautiful, strong, watchful deer. Gentle is the word attributed to deer. I would say they are a powerful form of gentle.

What is the garden teaching me? The soil is volcanic, red, softened slightly with watering and soil enhancers. Weeds grow easiest when the soil has been watered over several days. Is the soil clay or is it only very dry? Why do humans crave family and solitude simultaneously? Who do we live our lives for in solitude? Is it enough to keep a garden and live for oneself? And yes, we need to know how to be alone, yet… I received an invitation to Jana’s, my niece’s, graduation. These special times. These special, dissolving times. Is my life over before I realize why I’m here? What is the secret to this every-dayness? How do we carry on despite the wars that are being waged around the world?

The garden is so lovely in this season, in Spring, lavishing its beauty on me, on Sara the cat and any friendly birds and insects. The garden is welcoming. I’ll continue to plant here until I move somewhere else. It’s not only Timothy I miss, it’s the loneliness of not having a daily someone with whom to interact. Why not Timothy? He’s not partner material. I wanted him to be as I don’t enjoy the search for a mate. However, he’s not the one.

The garden is patient and it trusts that it’ll flower and fruit at the right time. It doesn’t have a mental process. It takes in nurturance and preens in the sun and waits for what’s next.

The Garden

Is it too soon to be thinking about the garden? This year, I hope to hire an experienced gardener to get me closer to what I desire. With my amateurish knowledge, I have created many less-than-satisfactory gardens over the years. I did learn to navigate seaside gardens with the help of my brother, a master gardener. However, moving to the mountains, it’s been a struggle. Is it the soil, the fertilizer, the light loving vs. shade loving plants, companion planting yay or nay, not enough or too much watering? There’s a lot to know.

When I first moved here, I also struggled with to have or not to have a garden as I was living in a rental.

This is my third spring in this rental house. It seems I have trouble claiming a rental as my home. I don’t fully set the house up for myself. No sooner did I arrive than I thought about moving. I’ve made friends, created a community, yet feel unsettled, ungrounded and barely beginning to cultivate a garden. The refrain is “Well, it’s not my house.” or “I’m going to move, so what’s the point?”
I haven’t moved. I’m here now, so today I begin the garden in earnest. The dirt beneath my fingernails tattles on me. The pebbles and soil tracked into the house…is a giveaway. My newly tanned nose and shoulders, messy play clothes reveal that I’ve been digging in the dirt.
In the mountains, a long winter turns into a slip of spring and then plunges rapidly into summer. She who dawdles loses gardening moments. I’m not much for lawns. but this property has a front and back lawn. It’s my responsibility to water them and keep them mowed. I’ve hired a gardener for mowing twice a month. If it were my house, the lawns would be flower beds, vegetable and herb gardens. Yet, there are enough other areas to cultivate some of my favorites and a few surprises.
Last summer I bought two maples in pots and placed them outside the kitchen and bedroom windows that face out on a fence. I also bought a wisteria trailing leaves…where to put it? I’m painting that section of the fence a terracotta color and dressing it up with a ceramic decorative sun and other ornaments. I want to love where I live. The neighbor’s old oak tree has leafed out overnight. The parasitic mistletoe doesn’t seem to meddle with the new leafy display. I want to travel some this summer, but I also want to keep this garden. I want to learn its language, meet the elemental beings if they want to be known, the birds and butterflies and to be grateful for all of it.

{This is the first in a series about some of my experiences in the garden.}

Swallowtail on Delphinium