Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Garden Dictionary 3rd Edition

It's been just over two years since I've done a post on's Word of the Day words that relate to gardening.  I aim to change that today.  Without further ado, here are some of the new words I’ve learned:

quincunx \KWING-kuhngks, KWIN-\, noun:
1. an arrangement of five objects, as trees, in a square or rectangle, one at each corner and one in the middle.
2. Botany. an overlapping arrangement of five petals or leaves, in which two are interior, two are exterior, and one is partly interior and partly exterior.

bedraggle \bih-DRAG-uhl\, verb:
to make limp and soiled, as with rain or dirt.

serotinal \si-ROT-n-l, ser-uh-TAHYN-l\, adjective:
pertaining to or occurring in late summer.

albedo \al-BEE-doh\, noun:
1. the white, inner rind of a citrus fruit.
2. Astronomy. the ratio of the light reflected by a planet or satellite to that received by it.
3. Meteorology. such a ratio for any part of the earth's surface or atmosphere.

commissure \KOM-uh-shoor, -shur\, noun:
1. a joint; seam; suture.
2. Botany. the joint or face by which one carpel coheres with another.
3. Anatomy, Zoology. a connecting band of nerve fiber, especially one joining the right and left sides of the brain or spinal cord.

lea \lee, ley\, noun:
1. a tract of open ground, especially grassland; meadow.
2. land used for a few years for pasture or for growing hay, then plowed over and replaced by another crop.
3. a crop of hay on tillable land.

bosky \BOS-kee\, adjective:
1. covered with bushes, shrubs, and small trees; woody.
2. shady.

sessile \SES-il, -ahyl\, adjective:
1. Zoology. permanently attached; not freely moving.
2. Botany. attached by the base, or without any distinct projecting support, as a leaf issuing directly from the stem.

albumen \al-BYOO-muhn\, noun:
1. the white of an egg.
2. Botany. the nutritive matter around the embryo in a seed.

pluvial \PLOO-vee-uhl\, adjective:
1. of or pertaining to rain; rainy.
2. Geology. occurring through the action of rain.

But what good is learning new words if you can’t put them into a sentence?  Here’s my attempt to use all these new words in one very short story:

The Gambling Gardener

Deep in the serotinal era of his life, the bedraggled gambler had a flash of clarity.  He had been waiting for the new card dealer to get set up when he realized that his ever-expanding butt and the stool at the blackjack table had formed a veritable sessile.  If he didn’t move soon, he’d never do anything else with his life.  In that moment, like the moment before we die, he recalled his entire youth and experienced, if only briefly, the unbridled joy he used to feel while exploring the bosky acreage around the home he grew up in.  The memory triggered in him an unquenchable desire to seek out his own lea in a pluvial land.  He could buy it with what was left of his gambling winnings if he walked away from the table now.  The land would be a blank slate upon which he could impress a new set of ideals, his own will, and a new system of taking chances against all odds.  He decided he would buy plants that were on the very edge of his USDA Hardiness Zone.  He would put full sun plants in part shade.  He would not pay much attention to spacing requirements either.  He was, after all, a gambler at heart.

And in return, the land would nurture him as the albumen does the unborn chick.  He would emerge from his shell and, in time, he would peel off the remaining albedo of his old life like a child before eating an orange and what was left would be exquisite.  He would become a gardener.  He would sink roots into the land.  His shovel would be a commissure between him and the soil.  And every time he planted something, he would arrange it in a quincunx to remind himself of the dice he used to roll and how he could now enjoy rolling the dice on a new life.      

He swore to himself that he would do all of this and more . . . after one more hand. 

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 quickly realized 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 for the peace I have and I hope that I can use that peace to share a little comfort with my friends who need it.