The other day, as it began to snow, we set the last of the daffodil bulbs into their new resting place in our garden. A few minutes more and they were covered and watered and the area finished off and made ready for winter. The last act was to empty and prepare the garden hose for a few months’ hibernation and to shut the water off from the inside. Done.
This morning, when I got up, and took a first breath, coffee in hand, on the back deck, the fresh snow betrayed the shape of things to come. Yesterday’s few hours of before-the-snow-comes work saw the end to this season’s efforts to prepare the space for next year.
For several years we waged a mighty war against just about anything that can make a lawn not-a-lawn including, but not limited to, blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the killing of firstborn children. Hmm. Just a minute. That’s another list. I conflate things in my dotage. (Those who do it earlier have no excuse.) Anyway, the list is close, save, perhaps, for the lice.
In pondering things in my heart, I came to believe that the earth was trying to tell us something. The earth is no respecter of lawns and, left to her own devices, will erase them given the opportunity. And erasure was the order of the day for our first five years in this place. Well, “No more!”, we say! By “we” I mean mostly me.
I had originally planned our garden adventure for next year. We’ve been spending money on our fixer-upper a chunk at a time each year. This was in next year’s budget. Somehow, though, as I slid into retirement a couple of months ago, it occurred to me that I wanted to sit in our garden this coming year, not two years from now. I wanted to plant a garden for retirement and not merely in retirement. I have a mental image of me sitting in a chair (a real chair), with a small café table next to me, book in hand, scotch at hand. A parasol would complete the picture. Barbara, for her part, wanted a swing.
So I got a good deal on a swing at Canadian Tire (end of season, please get it out of here, manager’s special) and positioned it to best advantage on a hand-drawn map for our latest adventure and got to work. The back legs of the swing will need to be jacked up come spring but its place relative to everything else has been fixed.
Our son, Blake, did most of the heavy lifting in the fashioning of the skeleton stone walkways. He was a great help! But 60 or so bags of soil and soil components later—and all schlepped by me—and a herb garden, hosta bed, daylily bed, grass and allium bed, daisy & cupflower back fence border, coneflower and nursery bed, and an area or two of shrubs have all taken shape in the filigree of the stepping stone walkway. However, at this stage, the garden is still fully realized only in my head. It won’t look like much for five or six months.
Shortly after sinking the last of the daffodils, I planted the two hydrangeas which Uropa Dieter gave us following Uroma Martha’s death. He also gave us a shovel and set of pruning shears he used as a landscaper in the last re-invention of his working life. Dieter always managed to find work even if he had to conjure-up his own job. The Hydrangeas are close to the swing for Barbara and are near to where I set my chair and sit myself down in my mind’s eye.
I am very fond of Dieter as I was/am of Martha. We met in 1980 in my first call as an ordained pastor. Thirty-nine years later we remain fast friends and I’m forever grateful that they became grandparents to our kids who were bereft of same quite young. To own a shovel, a pair of shears and a couple of hydrangeas means a lot to me. Moreover, they will be honoured and perhaps remembered whether the capacity remains within me to honour and remember or not. The earth will see to it—she of astonishing capacity to reshape herself and make her mark.
So for now.
It’s important that the people who have served so well and loved so freely in our lives be honoured. I hope to show Dieter, come spring, the spot where the hydrangeas grow near the centre of our yard. That moment will likely require two chairs and a second glass.
André Lavergne — writing from a settler-descendant’s home on the traditional lands of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples on the Haldimand Tract (1784).