Down the hill from my house there is a small country cottage. It is situated on a triangular piece of ground that slopes uphill and meets the end my own little yard. Yesterday I spotted a budding peony forcing itself through the wire fence and it stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t just the flower that stopped me it was in fact the entire garden surrounding the cottage. Looking past the peony I could see irises, roses, flowering quince, dogwood and many, many other shrubs and flowers beginning to show their spring colors. Along with all of this new life there was also a plethora of weeds that had been gaining on the ground for some months and which I mainly noticed each time I passed until yesterday when the peony arrested my attention.
Standing there and appreciating the pale countenance of this fat bud I recalled that my neighbor had mentioned the people who owned this place. The wife, he said, had passed a way a couple of years ago. She was a gardener, he added. I never made much of this but I had seen an old man spraying roundup around the edges of his property over the summer.
Now in the face of earliest spring where the evidence of the lady’s gardening skills are beginning to make themselves seen, I feel a sudden sadness for the old man. This was their summer house. She planted and tended and he appreciated her efforts. They probably sat on the little deck on the rear of the cottage on summer evenings smelling the moonflower and roses. Maybe they sipped a little wine and talked quietly to each other. I don’t know if he comes here in spring when the calla lilies are blooming or if it’s too painful for him to visit and remember.
I like to think that every gardener leaves a bit of themselves in the soil that they work. I know that my mother certainly has. The hours of love, devotion, sweat and toil that she has put into the landscape of her house is undeniable. But she’s not able to work it as much as she would like to either. She has had to give up much of the yard work to a hired man who never does things as she would. Where she trimmed, he hacks. It breaks her heart not to be able to turn the soil and pull the weeds, feed the plants and harvest their fruit. The little she can do does not always satisfy. And every year she swears she will not put in a vegetable garden. This may actually be true this year. If it is then I will plant tomatoes for her and tend them in my small garden and bring them to her. If her flowers don’t do as well as they have done in the past, I’ll be sure to share mine with her. In these gardens we put ourselves and from their fruits we share our love with one another. They are the gifts of our labors and we love them.
I secretly hope that my down-hill neighbor comes this spring and that he sits on that little deck and looks at all the beauty his wife added to this tiny plot of land. I hope that I see him there sometime and tell him how much I have been enjoying the garden. You see, I know they she planted love there.