Aug 06 2015

The Gardening Identity

I know that my garden is a living, breathing entity, a “creature” that will blossom, thrive (or not), and eventually die. And because of this fact, I’ve begun to think of my garden as a member of my family. I felt inklings of this when my husband and I went abroad last year and I worried about missing the zinnia blooms. But, in retrospect, that was casual worry, easily tossed aside after a moment, or a sip of wine.

On our most recent trip down the central California coast, I thought about my garden constantly. Yes, I still thoroughly enjoyed the coastline, hikes, and solitude, but sometimes that solitude was interrupted by a cycle of nagging worries: What if our irrigation lines have somehow stopped working? What if all of our tomatoes fall off the vines before they ripen? What if one our one exceptionally large Brandywine tomato plants topples over and crushes everything in its wake?

Because of this umbilical cord-like attachment I seem to have, before we left, I attempted to control everything I could, all while rationally understanding that anything could happen. We set up additional irrigation lines in the front garden and put some sprinklers beside the wildflower patch. I gave an extra long glug of water to our baby persimmon tree and our potted bamboo. And then I watched from afar as Portland’s thermometer hit 104 degrees for two days in a row, bookended by several days in the high 90s.

I felt like a rational person and gardener until our last day away, when I couldn’t shake off a jittery feeling – of worry? of love? – telling me that I had to get home to our yard to tend to it, to care for it, immediately. Clearly, this is the year I officially became a true gardener, and as evidenced by those mostly irrational worries on our trip, this doesn’t seem to be an identity that’ll mellow over time. I’m happy with that fact, though.

When we returned home, I put on my headlamp while Justin ferried in bags and cuddled (or soothed) our cats. I scampered about the yard, noticing ripe tomatoes and peppers, feeling thankful that everything was still blooming and relatively lush looking, embracing those equally overwhelming feelings of gratefulness. I garden for the highs and lows and for the greater connection to a broader world, outside of myself and my small plot – a world that includes weather, natural disasters, generous humans, and human error; a world that includes pests and small creatures, a world that includes both intense flavor and missed opportunities. Gardening is now an identity that can’t be shaken off when I leave and put back on when I return.