Do you have a garden?… It should be an easy question to answer, like the one, “Do you have any children?” or even better, “How many children do you have?” Easy, right? Just a quick conversational piece. I understand that. They are not asking all about my life, just a few, polite, easy questions. And then as my mind starts spinning, wondering how to answer, they look at me in a confused sort of way.
Not a hard question. It doesn’t need thought, the answer should be right there. Should be. Should be, but it isn’t. Like so many things, my life is more complicated than that. More complicated than many people’s lives, and what starts out as a polite question, leaves me in a state of confusion and panic. How do I answer that?
My neighbour has a garden. It is beautiful, and she and her husband are out there all the time working on it. I admire her garden, and wish I was as capable – but the cost, and the labour (I haven’t a great back – but then, they haven’t great knees…) and the energy, and the skill.
People have told me I should just ask her to teach me. People love to share their skills. But I can’t exactly learn from people – they scare me until I can’t think, or move. Instead, I hide in my house, afraid of what she will think of me, because I can’t.
Many of the women in my church have gardens. My backyard neighbour (a member of my church, though we now go to different services) has a large vegetable garden. When I am on my deck, I can see her working at it, and all the vegetables look perfect – like a picture. This above all the trees and flowers they grow as well.
The point is, they know what they are doing. Do they have gardens? Yes! But if I say I have a garden, well, it just points out my failure – to me, even if they never know. Most of what I plant doesn’t grow, and what does grow… well, I’ll just say it doesn’t look like theirs.
So I should say I don’t have a garden? But I have kale, chives, and mint growing in one raised bed – along with two or three other plants that might be flowers re-seeded from last year, or might just be weeks. In the other bed, I have a few green onions, a largish patch of hostas and another unknown plant (given to me from someone in my life group, who would have ‘thrown them out’ if I didn’t take them), a small patch of lavender that was in a pot through the winter, a tiny dogwood bush that I planted in the middle just because, and some little wildflower seedlings that are just coming up.
Along the fence line, I piled a bit of leaf mulch (from our huge maple tree) and some dirt beside my burning bush, and a lone patch of lavender. To this I sprinkled a mix of wildflowers and a hummingbird garden mix – and at the end, I put my ivy, which was doing so well in my house for a couple of years before it decided to die. It might survive there.
Plus I have several fruit trees scattered around – 2 cherries, a plum, and a Saskatoon berry, as well as some raspberries in the backyard. I like to plant trees and bushes. They seem to grow for me.
Obviously I am doing something out there – so to say I don’t have a garden… is that a lie?
After a very awkward silence, I answer, “Not really.” (I have more of a science experiment, I think to myself.) And my husband, listening to the conversation – and not really particular about how it compares to others says, “you sort of do.”
Just like when they ask if I have any children. “I have a son,” I say (and three others who were taken, but apparently weren’t really mine, I add to myself, and my son isn’t a child any longer.)
How do I answer them?