Written by Dee Byars
Photography by Tori Freeman
There should be a t-shirt that says “The garden is my happy place!” I can’t remember a time when that phrase was not true of me. Even as a barefoot girl of eight, with a tom-boyish spirit and a Buster Brown haircut, I loved to walk behind Daddy as he plowed open the ground. The smell of good dirt wafted on the breeze as the earth exhaled with each pass of the plowshare. The borrowed mule clopped back and forth with ears twitching and occasional snorts, Dad at the reins, until the garden spot was fully turned.
I kept well back. The fresh soil felt cool under foot, and crumbled easily with my weight. I felt deeply happy, calm and utterly content in the peaceful atmosphere of the warm Spring evening.
Every spring throughout my adult years, no matter where we had moved, there was the swell of garden fever. Seed packets were randomly bought amidst the grocery shopping. There was always a corner of the yard that beckoned me to take a hoe to it. The planting was sometimes vegetables, or just a flower bed, sometimes a bit of both. But always, I had to get my fingers and feet into the warming earth with seed in hand, and see if something would sprout. Honestly, I probably failed agriculturally more times than I succeeded; I make no boast of gardening prowess.
There must be a gardening sickness that I catch every year, sometimes more than once. Can’t seem to help myself! I am compelled to plant something. And, it has only gotten worse over the years. I knew it was serious when my friend gave me a lovely green t-shirt with a garden motif. The lettering said:
“Gardening…It’s cheaper than therapy!”
This year (it’s spring now, you know) I’m having the worst outbreak ever. The first symptoms occurred in January, when the seed catalogs started arriving addressed to occupant. It was a sign!I would sit up late doing my imaginary shopping. I’d draw row upon row of what should be planted where and when. Then, come February, I found myself out tilling in the cold….next thing I knew I was planting seed potatoes.
The amazing thing is that less than a month later, I have two rows of potatoes, already sprouting. And the asparagus is up! Somehow, a row of white hyacinths showed up fragrancing the walk path and cheering the few herbs that survived the winter. The squash and cucumbers are all tucked in tonight against the threat of a late frost.
Feeling compulsive and feverish, I’m wondering if there is a Gardeners Anonymous hotline. However, I recognize that when I lay down to sleep, there is that same calm, and the good kind of tired that insures deep rest. I remember an old saying. Perhaps you’ve heard it too?
“The Kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth;
One is nearer God’s heart in the garden,
Than anywhere else on earth!”
Good night, friends! Happy Gardening,