"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." ~ Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
All of the Day Lily "clumps" that were dug up and transported over here in the back of the jeep are thriving. They are in pots now, fresh soil surrounds the old which clung to the roots. I didn't know a thing about DayLilies, and certainly next to nothing about gardening in general when we bought our home in Alabama. I liked the canopy of trees and what looked like a mature landscape to me - outside was my favorite thing about the house when we first found it. It was an old house and needed a bunch of work. The yard had been neglected too. I soon learned that my new neighbors, all at least ten years older than my momma, would help me along.
Not just with the garden but also with life.
The previous owner of our house and the lady next door had a bed six feet wide and hundred feet long which was brimming with dallies, irises, shasta daisies and tiny bits of the invasive poison ivy which was quick to take hold anywhere there was dirt. The bed was the glory of the neighborhood. During the blooming season it wasn't rare for me to look out the window and see folks walking up and down my driveway. Mrs.Waller, my neighbor, spent a good deal of time tending it and eventually teaching me how to care for it. She had stakes with names near each of the plants (just the lilies) and traveled all over the South collecting new varieties. Over the years I became the primary weeder of the bed. Each Spring I'd dedicate a few days to cleaning it out careful not to disturb the good plants. Sometimes I'd have to dig up a clump that had some undesirable intertwined in it's roots, but the soil was so good that I could mostly tug the weeds away with very little strain. At first Mrs. Waller supervised, later she was able to participate only as the waterer, and some evenings I'd look out to see her walking the row on her side of the drive with a small pail for the deadheads. One year her grandson interspersed the bed with plantings of "mexican sunflower" which he'd dug up while out doing surveying work. Whatever was in the dirt around those "weeds" soon made a mess of that bed. She was heartbroken. I did everything I could short of using poison in the bed to set things back to right. At some point people who were strangers to me, her gardening buddies from far and wide, came and began to dig up sections of the plants. Before she passed most of her exotic lilies had stopped "coming back" in the Spring. We had mostly Irises and the apparently more hardy yellow strains of lilies which I divided and moved around to the bare places. When the house sold the new owners put down RoundUp on their side of the driveway bed. They were't gardeners and to tell the truth, they weren't very good neighbors! It didn't take anytime at all for the poison to seep in to my side of the bed.
My parents gardened, their parents gardened, I remember pretty yards at the homes of my great grandparents, probably all my people were gardeners. I saw myself as someone without a green thumb. I'd never weeded a bed before Mrs. Waller began to take me in hand. I walked around the backyard with my dad sometimes gathering flowers for the dining room table. I was a pretty accurate shot with the oranges and other citrus which fell from the trees in our back yard, ammo for backyard games. Occasionally I was instructed to pick up peaches from the front lawn, but they were bird pecked and yucky to throw ... . I didn't have any yard work responsibilities. Should have, but didn't. Daddy was practically religious about organic gardening ... momma frequently sprayed stuff on the plants after he left for work ... none of us kids ever let out a peep about that.
Weeding that big bed was a lot of work but I liked it a lot too. The beauty of the bed seemed like a gift not only to us, but to the neighborhood as well. I learned a lot of things out there that helped me be a better person in general but more specifically how to better tend to my role as a mother. Parenting is like gardening, at least that's how I've come to see it.
This morning the remnants of that bed are in pots on the porch where Sammy can guard them from the deer. Even if they never get planted back in the ground there's something very right about looking out my window and seeing them bloom.