Growing up in California, my mother loved our garden. I did not. It was beautiful and colorful and all the neighbors complimented our family on how nice it looked, but for me, gardening equaled yard work, which equaled time spent feeling imprisoned. Of course, I was a teenager then, so what did I really know?
Now, I understand why she loved gardening so much.
Saturday mornings meant cutting the lawn with a push (translation—non-motorized) mower. Then it was my job to rake up the clippings. I trimmed around the edges of our lawn with hand clippers (no weed wackers). When I wasn’t doing that, I was helping pull weeds, and in the spring, I’d assist her in planting new flowers. When I could hear other kids in our neighborhood playing baseball or riding their bikes, I was doing yard work. It was never torturous or all time-consuming, but for any young person asked to do something they aren’t passionate about, it felt like it.
Our garden and my childhood home have long since been sold to someone else. My parents both passed away at fairly young ages. Sadly, my mother never lived long enough to see what I now do most every Saturday and a couple of evenings a week—yard work.
We own a home with a yard that’s much larger than it needs to be. We have two large lawn areas, two parking strips (corner lot) and several flowerbeds. We have a vegetable garden each year that yields pitifully small harvests of tomatoes and some spices. Our sprinkler system isn’t consistent and my lawn has a combination of bright green spaces and a few brown spots. There is never enough time to get every aspect and every element of our yard looking neat and trimmed at the same time. But I don’t care, because this past weekend, I realized why so many people feel fulfilled by yard work. It’s simple—my garden needs me.
I have people you love me, and friends who like me, and a dog that tolerates me, but my garden truly NEEDS me. It needs me to water it, fertilize it, trim it, and keep the weeds and unwanted grass removed from it. As I was watering some new ferns I planted this year, I could almost see them reaching out to thank me, to express their appreciation for the life-giving liquid I was pouring into the bases around their roots. The next day, they seemed to be standing a little straighter, a little more proud than the day before. They were nurtured not by just the water and vitamins I was providing to them—they were nurtured because they knew I cared about them. Their lives were virtually in my hands to make them grow stronger and more vibrant. It fulfills me to feel they do need me, and feeling needed is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
So yes, Mom, I now understand why you loved working in your garden and yard so much. Wish I’d been more willing to do it when you were raising me. But take heart—because that lesson and those seeds you planted, literally and figuratively, have finally taken hold. I read a lot, and I work in the yard a lot. I think you’d be pleased.