Gardening was solace and joy, hope and inspiration, nourishment, connection and peace. Spring’s bare beds were full of possibility. I grinned with delight putting seeds in the ground, chattered with excitement in the garden store selecting plants with Christian. I lit up as the first tiny seedlings emerged new from the earth each year–and each year I squealed with glee as the lettuce grew big enough for my salad. Sometimes I wept tears of joy and awe plucking my first warm, purple-red tomatoes from the plants. I loved hauling in my harvest day after day, eating my blackberries fresh and sweet, feeding chard to my friends over and over, watching them replenish themselves. I loved my weekly cuttings of flowers for my home practice space, adorning my altar with roses and zinnias, lavender, lilies and forget-me-nots.
I felt peace as I stood there among my beautiful growing things.
I felt horror and anguish, deep grief and a sense of profound, painful violation when my abuser destroyed my garden. It’s been one part of a constellation of interlocking wounds which–though they aren’t as fresh or painful, as deep or bloody or perilous as they once were–remain. Some have scabbed over, some are bandaged, some are healing nicely and others have been ripped open–sometimes repeatedly. That garden wound means sometimes friends give me roses and I cry about it.
My friend’s cat, Pixie, died a couple of months ago now. The only thing she wanted on that day was zinnias to bury her cat with. With very little time between my last class and the arrival of the vet I visited the homes of three friends. Though zinnias were in bloom, their season had just come. My friends had enough blooms between them for a bouquet and they were happy for me to go collect them. I made one last stop, my front seat full of flowers, at Stone Brothers & Byrd. Time was short, so I ran down the block and into the store and scanned the seed packets. I stopped moving, an envelope of “Cut & Come Again” in hand, eyeing the rack. I wanted zinnias. I bit my lip, yearning for a fresh bed of dirt in which I might drop seeds. I took a second envelope. I made it to Pixie before the vet came.
That second envelope of zinnia seeds, the one I took for myself, sat unopened on my dresser, then the kitchen counter. I eyed the barren spaces in the meadow behind the house and the neatly trimmed and weeded lawn of my friend in turn for weeks, finally asking–
“Would it maybe be ok if I planted zinnia seeds back there?” My friend is very laid back, not compulsive like I am. I observe my misplaced fear about taking up too much space against his easy consent–more wounds, relics of other relationships, unnecessary with this friend and this interaction. Yet it takes more time to work up to doing it.
It is Sunday evening and we are sitting on the back porch with music after dinner. The embers in the grill are burning down. The table holds our empty plates, his beer and my fizzy water. The deck is warm beneath my bare feet.
“Do you have a shovel somewhere?” I ask. He tells me where it is and I go to the garage. I take the shovel, a fork, and a giant bag of potting soil back outside. I begin to dig into the small hill out back, pushing the shovel into red clay with my bare foot. The earth is warm and the shovel cool. Next I use the fork to turn the dirt over and over.
“Need help?” he asks as I pick up the bag of soil.
“Nah, I got it,” I grunt, already on my way back across the dry grass. I take a deep breath and pour out the bag over my haphazard little garden patch between year-old long leaf pine seedlings. I spread it with my hands, bending to poke holes for the seeds. I squat low over the patch with the envelope and breathlessly break the seal, peering into the paper container at the irregular-shaped seeds.
I remember my zinnias at the house–how they self-seeded, multiplying every season. I remember the visits of bees and hummingbirds. I remember how one errant seed put down roots in a crack in the driveway and grew there in the unforgiving cement, tiny and alone–how delighted I was when that little insistent plant put out a bloom. I wipe away tears, hoping some of my plants might have escaped my abuser’s notice and re-emerged anyway, persistent like the tiny zinnia.
I put my fingers into the packet and extract a few seeds. I consider how each contains the possibility and promise of new life, growth and beauty. I tuck the seeds tenderly into the indents I’ve made for them and brush dirt over top. I repeat the sowing of seeds several times. I consider how they’ll emerge in days, put down roots and spit out brightly colored flowers by the dozen in 8-9 weeks.
I drag the hose from the side of the house and put my thumb against the end to spray water in a fountain over the freshly planted soil. The water spills out down the hill and it’s warm running between my toes.