Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Will We Still Garden When Grief Comes?

In the past couple weeks I have watched two close friends experience the grief of unexpectedly losing a parent.  Another friend is closing in on a year without his father and the grief is still an ever-present weight in his life.

Nothing focuses our attention on what matters quite as acutely as grief does.  In those moments we cling to whatever gives us hope, whatever gives us peace, or whatever just feels safe.  All of the other things in our lives just recede into the background, into what life used to be like.  Before.

I keep this photo at my desk at work as a reminder that what matters most to me can fit in a single picture.
As an outsider in this time of grief, I have watched my friends turn different directions.  One turned to a faith in God that had been dormant for years.  He wanted to experience something he hadn’t felt in a long time.  Another turned away from God saying he couldn’t believe in an all-powerful and all-loving being that wouldn’t give his father peace before he died.   This friend sought peace in other things I won't name here.  

Life is filled with things for us to do.  We stay busy with friends, hobbies, passions, and pursuits.  But when grief visits, we suddenly find it not only easy to walk away from these things, but necessary.  These things might have felt like a critical component of ourselves just days before.

Watching my friends struggle and watching what they choose to do in their time of need has prodded me to consider what my response would be.  What would I turn to?  What would no longer feel important?  If it would not be important to me in a time of pain, should it really be important now? 

I was pondering these very questions while working in the yard on Sunday and I wasn’t so oblivious that I didn’t realize that gardening is one of those things that could melt away if tragedy struck.  The weeds would grow and I wouldn’t care.

Grass and weeds creep in on the orange tree's territory.  It is littered with last year's fruit and this year's blooms.

Tomatoes would rot on the vine but it wouldn’t matter because I wouldn’t have an appetite.  The sprinklers would fall into disrepair and I would neglect them.  I would absolutely stop turning the compost.  But I believe that I would eventually return to gardening.  I would return to it because it is a quiet way to spend a day.  I would return to it because my laboring would help my body and my heart feel in tune.  I would return to gardening because it allows the mind to wander.  I would return to it because of the perspective that gardening provides on seasons, life and death, renewal, beauty, hope, hard work, and sustenance. 

Someone else could worry about feeding the birds.

I am thankful for my garden.  I am thankful for a quiet place within which I can mull over the questions I have.  I am thankful the peace I have and I hope that I can use that peace to share a little comfort with my friends who need it.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Japanese Maples in Spring

Murasaki Kiyohime - a great dwarf JM for a shady spot.

Katsura - has almost neon green spring colors.

O Isami - Acer Japonicum

Red Dragon - a slow growing lace leaf maple.  

Close up of the leaves on an Otto's Dissectum JM

Koto No Ito - a beautiful, delicate-looking tree.

Ryusen - a unique tree that can be trained to act like a ground cover.

Orangeola - I had one of these at my old house but had to leave it behind.
I couldn't resist replacing it when I saw this one at the nursery the other day.  

Viridis - a weeping lace leaf maple that should eventually be wider than it is tall. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Captain Ahab's Focus

I suppose I should admit it to the world something that my wife has known for years: I’m not the best multi-tasker.  I don’t necessarily think of this as a negative though.  In the “glass half full” spirit of things, I see my propensity for avoiding multi-tasking as a direct cause of my single-minded determination.  I have an Ahab-like ability to obsess on one thing at time. 

Once my obsession has taken root, I find it difficult to move onto other things.  For the last two months, my obsession has centered on the construction of a new room off the back of our garage that we’re temporarily referring to as a “man cave”. 

A place for tables without chairs, cabinets filled with paint cans, and rusty file cabinets. 
Before it was the man cave, this room was a thrown-together catch all.  My guess is that former occupants of this house used it as a shop and a place for their kids to shoot their air soft guns.  The structure, such as it was, stood on top of a slightly raised concrete pad that takes up the majority of what was once a good sized patio.  Initially, I thought we could just tear down some of the old construction and put up new dry wall and replace some lights and we’d call it good.  But when we discovered that the entire frame was nothing more than one of those iron patio awnings we knew it was best to tear it all down and start from scratch. 

After we moved in I started filling this space with weed whackers, HD buckets, and gardening shoes.
Although this means the entire project would be much more expensive, it turned out to be a real blessing for me.  I was able to design the new room and add in all the perks that would make it truly usable as an extra space for our family.  Because this room juts out onto the patio, and the back yard as a result, I had to consider the exterior of this room as a backdrop for the garden at large.  To that end, when we designed the room I made sure that there was enough space between the windows that I could put my large planter box/trellis between the windows without blocking any of the light.  

This now fits perfectly between the room's two windows.

I also made sure we installed several exterior outlets making it easier to do things like power Christmas lights, corded power tools, low voltage lighting, irrigation timers, and anything else that comes with an electrical cord.  I also asked for an outlet to be installed just under the eaves because I thought that would be a perfect way for me to realize my Pinterest-inspired day dreams of being able to string cafĂ© lights up into the mulberry tree that presides over our patio. 

Something like this is what I'm aiming for. 

After two months of construction, the keys have finally been turned over to me and the decorating will begin in earnest this weekend.  Once I have gotten the interior situated to my liking, I am going to turn my obsession to getting the patio set up the way I like it.  

A fresh start always comes with a renewed feeling of hope.
The door on the left now hides the utility meter and provides a little closet storage.
If I knew how to Photoshop, I'd erase those chairs from the picture.  Obviously I don't know how to Photoshop.

At my last residence, I was very much a container gardener.  I probably had 20 different containers on my back patio alone.  I enjoy container gardening immensely.  I used to think that I was a container gardener because I lacked the space to do more traditional gardening.  But now I understand that I enjoyed the restriction of it, the "movability" of plants in pots, the ability to easily change the scenery as my mood dictates, and the experimentation involved.

Nearly time to pull my pots and misc. containers out of storage!
I am definitely looking forward to letting myself obsess about filling up my patio with plants, pots, and power cords.