Dirt, weeds and deep roots to my ancestors
Working in my garden, dirt underneath my fingernails, I think of my grandmothers:
Grandma Bea, tending to her tomatoes on her little patch of grass two street blocks inland from the ocean in the 90 degree heat while my friends and I lay on the beach. On our return, sated with sun and salt, she would greet us from her garden, finding the ripest tomatoes to slice for salad for our dinner.
Grandma Min, designing her lush Pennsylvania lawn to pop with color, flowering bulbs, flowering bushes, flowering trees that put on a show for us when we sat on her enclosed patio, eating her chocolate cake and drinking tea. The dogwood tree, the lilac bush, the roses.
I read an article recently about how all human beings share a common trauma: starvation. Somewhere down the line, wherever we hail from, our grandparents struggled to feed their families, fought to survive. We were all starving once; the search for food is deeply wired into us. How would it change us~if we recognized this vulnerability in each other? If we saw a stranger and thought You are hungry, too.
Is it this ancient memory contained deep in my DNA that drives me outdoors, in the early spring, to dig in the dirt? Today it’s 90 degrees in southeastern Pennsylvania and the air conditioning and a good book beckon but I feel hungry to weed and lay down compost. I discover a new patch of garlic mustard, growing wild, and I gently pick leaves to wash to pound into pesto for my family.
I never read a book on gardening, on how to grow flowers or vegetables. I learn as I go, each season bringing its discoveries.
I remember Grandma Min when my roses bloom, as they are right now, as they do early June. I didn’t plant these roses~they were here when I bought the house. Whose hands grew these beautiful roses that now wind up and around the fence?
Like Grandma Min, I keep adding flowers so the backyard becomes a symphony of color: daffodils, then tulips, then azaleas, rhododendron, violets, hostas, lilies, and of course, the roses.
We created containers that sit in what used to be my grandparents patio chairs: I fill them with brightly colored daises, pansies, marigolds. Birds come and sit on the wrought iron backs where Grandma sat and told me her stories.
In my little back plot, I’ll put in tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers at 5 o’clock on summer nights, I’ll think of Grandma Bea, step outside to see what is fresh that I can wash, to put in our salad.
When I sit or work in my garden, the birds come…mostly robins, jays and sparrows. But once in a while I look up to brush my dirty hands on my shorts and just then, there’s a flash of red, a cardinal. It’s always when I’m thinking of my grandfather, Pop-pop George, that a cardinal comes. It’s him I go to for comfort. When I see the cardinal, I take a step or two towards it without thinking and he flies off. But the wind stays and blows on my face for a while. You’re doing fine, he says.
Thank you for reading. I hope this month brings you moments of beauty and connection. If you click the little ‘clap’ symbol it will help more folks see this blog.