Saturday, 4 July 2015

Just a Simple Story

I was going to write a blog called "The Garden as a Metaphor for Life." Then Google told me that there were 55 million hits that responded to that phrase. You can read one of them on Huffington Post, where Maria  Rodale says you have to shovel the sh*t if you want to harvest the results, and a lot more. Read the blog I could have written at

Instead, I’ll tell you a story. If you want to find a metaphor in it, you’re welcome to do so. But if you just want to look at the pictures, that’s okay, too.

Once upon a time on a beautiful island, so the story begins, there was a wannabe garden. It was gravelly, and bare, and surrounded by a fence. It didn’t look promising. Someone had sprinkled grass seed all over it. It was a wannabe garden dressed up like a lawn.

To the “lawn with the heart of a garden” came a man and a woman. I won’t call them old, but they had been to the top of the hill, and now were on the downward slope. They had tried gardening in other places in Canada,  most recently in a land where frost was a possibility in any month of the year.  They looked at this  “garden” and they looked at each other, and they said, “Yes!”

Dreams of sugarplums – no, Italian prune plums –  danced in their heads.  And rosemary! And lavender.  Roses, too. The woman pictured a wide perennial border all around the yard with splashes of colour. The man pictured a pond with goldfish and lily pads. So they bought the garden, as well as the house, which was a bonus!

That first winter, the  man took courses at the college in garden design. The woman joined gardening groups. They learned how to garden in a mild climate. By the time spring arrived, there was a five- year-plan for the garden. It would no longer be a lawn.

Their son was a permaculture guru. Permaculture is sustainable agriculture on steroids. “So where are you planting the vegies?” asked he who believes we can all grow everything we need to eat (organically, of course), thus saving the planet and feeding the world.  Oh. Vegies. Hmm. The woman added a smallish centre bed  to the yard plan for vegies. The man reduced the size of his pond, scheduled for year 4. Secretly, they both hoped the vegie thing would peter out by then. “We tried it and it didn’t work,” they’d tell the son.

And then the work began.  Bazillions of rocks of all sizes lay a foot or two under the surface of the neighbourhood. Those rocks were hauled from building sites in the area, and laid out around the yard as borders for raised beds. The sons and their young, strong legs were invaluable – they hauled rocks and piled hundreds of wheelbarrows of gardening soil and compost on top of cardboard which had been laid down to kill those parts of the lawn, and in no time, the beds were ready.

The man and the woman indulged themselves with all the plants their little hearts desired. Some they bought at nurseries, but many were given to them by friends and neighbours – lavender, daisies, rose canes, tiny spring flowers and more. They planted vegies, and oh Wow!  Cabbages the size of pumpkins, zucchinis the size of baseball bats, potatoes, beans, a tomato that weighed in at just under 2 pounds.

To her surprise, the woman liked her vegie garden just as much as her perennial border. Except just wasn’t quite big enough. That was year one, and it was good.

At year 2, the 5 year plan went out the window. The garden was enlarged to accommodate more vegies; a pond, complete with twin waterfalls, was dug;  and an enlarged patio was added to the yard.

They planted trees and an herb garden. They built a shed. The plants flourished – and the man and the woman were content to sit on their patio and watch their garden grow, and their fish swim, and their trees  bear fruit. That was year two.

But as every gardener knows, there’s always a bit of tweaking to do, a new plant to add, a shrub to pull and replace, more beds to add at the side of the house. In year 3 and 4 and 5, much tweaking went on. Each year, there was a little more in the garden: a grape arbour, a woodland garden, a raspberry patch and a boysenberry climber.

In year 6, the man and the woman decided to show others that, yes, you can successfully grow a garden that combines vegies and flowers, and it can be beautiful. The garden became part of a tour. The people came, they saw, and maybe some of them were inspired to feed the world by growing their own food. Maybe!

One day, the neighbour jokingly asked if the man and woman were offering safari tours through the jungle. They shrugged it off as jealousy. Perhaps his peas didn't grow as tall or produce as bountifully. Perhaps the neighbour thought of it as a jungle, but it was their own precious jungle.

But just recently, with the garden 8 years old – a mature garden, the gurus would call it –  the man and the woman looked at each other, and the woman cautiously asked, “Do you think our garden may be a teensy-weensy bit overgrown?”

View from the dining room window.

“Yes,” admitted the man. “We've had a lot of fun with it, and we've tried a lot of things. But we’re not as young as we used to be. We can’t do it all anymore, and we'll have to choose which plants to keep and which to give away.”

That was tough to hear, but smart thinking, as well. “Maybe next year we can cut back,” she replied. And they will, because in a garden, there’s always some tweaking to do. "And maybe you can build a little table for the grape arbour, and we can sit there enjoy the view!"

And if something in this story that works for you as a metaphor for life, well, go for it!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Jessie! Our yard looked much like yours did in the beginning. We, too, designed, added and tweaked. It is not as large or ambitious as yours but we love it. Congratulations on the lovely space you have created. It works as a metaphor also. We have one Mom, one son, one dog...a smaller garden but no less loved.