The Patient Gardener

When I finally agreed to live with Paul he packed up my ragtag group of furnishings on a snowy winter day and moved them by himself to surprise me while I was at work one day.  He was too excited to wait for me, or perhaps he understood that my involvement would only prolong the process. Walking through my empty basement apartment one final time, I paused at the bedroom door, took a deep breath and turned off the light. “It’s time to stop saying goodbye,” my friend Nancy advised me tearfully when I told her that I was moving again, and that was the thought in my head as I trudged through the snow towards a warm waiting car. I mentally counted; five homes in four years, each time hoping to find a place that would heal me.  “I want to plant a garden,” I told Paul as we drove to New Hampshire and for the rest of that winter I looked through the window at the banks of silent snow and envisioned a border garden in the backyard at the edge of the forest.

When spring came Paul surprised me again by having two tons of dark organic soil delivered. When I arrived home from work I found him sitting in a lawn chair at the foot of the dirt mound holding a glass of wine and smiling as if he were basking in the view of a majestic mountain range.  Cart by cart we moved the mountain to the edge of the forest framing the yard with a serpentine border of brown loam.  We loaded up the border with perennials, annuals, landscape lighting an irrigation system and a fountain.
One night in midsummer we sat on the back deck and surveyed our kingdom.  “I’m just amazed by the mass of beautiful mounds of white flowers,” Paul joked pointing out the one flaw in my master plan.  The sweet alyssum I planted would not grow. No matter how much love and attention I lavished on them, they remained stunted.  “This garden needs a gardener who cares,” he would say to me while planting a kiss on my head.

Eventually we sold the house in New Hampshire and bought our condo in Boston.  No longer any outdoor space for a garden, I planted Alyssum seedlings again in a box of dirt precipitously perched on the ledge of our kitchen windows.  They flourished all summer and filled our home with a subtle sweet scent. I let them go to seed over the winter and in the spring they surprised me by returning in an even larger mound of sweet white flowers.   
Like humans, plants need water, light and nutrients to survive, but it takes something special for them to thrive.  Who knows when a flower will bloom or a heart will heal, but this is how a garden grows; Learn to say hello instead of goodbye, find a gardener who cares, put them in the right spot and they’ll bloom in the most unlikely spaces.


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