Emmaline's Blog

Gardening again.

I planted a long layered border of celery, parsley and red Russian kale. I scattered red cos among the more established green cos, and fortified the population of dill, tarragon and basil. I filled the gaps in the strawberry guava hedge and planted a passionfruit against the new, high fence that our neighbours requested (it's their loss of sun, not ours, so we're maintaining equanimity in the face of the monolith of forest destruction). I put chook poo on the fruit trees, then realised I needed twice as much. I forgot to get more coriander. I still don't have a good-enough plan for the winter-shade spot that we look at everyday from the kitchen table. The garden, like science, is always more questions than answers. It never resolves, just draws you in deeper.  

When I was first home from hospital, barely able to walk after two months in bed and emotionally frail to boot, the first and best antidepressant I found was weeding. When I could not bear humans or my own bedridden self, I would limp to the garden, sit on the low brick wall in the sun, and pull out the weeds within my reach. There were plenty of them. I knew they were just weeds and it was routine to pull them out. But I had experienced myself as a collection of cells, vulnerable to transcription errors, and the plants were only little structures of cells too. I was dying of something meaningless, wishing for compassion, and I'd make myself sit there, destroying life. I'd pull out each plant and watch their roots dehydrate and their cells collapse. I would force myself to stay as close to my own mortality as I was able, as vulnerable as the tiny pieces of oxalis and chickweed. I told myself that I was "making my garden while I may". I was taking control of a tiny, wild, bit of the world and recovering the will to live. I was being nature rather than looking at it. Breathing, planting, nurturing, killing. Being alive in the world as it is. Taking my own place in the garden. I would lose focus and sob, angry at and pitying myself. I'd think of Shiva the Destroyer and those scary Buddhist demons. And I would gather my resolve and grow vegetables for my girls, for my husband, for myself. 

I garden when I can't bear to see people. I assuage my guilt over this by trying to give the humans produce. I suspect all this gardening enthusiasm is just a desperate lunge at control. I wish I were better at caring for people. I try to console myself that caring for plants isn't only about avoidance. We do eat from the garden at least once a day, mostly salads and herbs, but berries and fruit now too. I go into the garden to exercise my escapism, exorcise my demons, let myself flow into a sense of being alive again. I spend money we don't have on tiny seedlings and nurture them obsessively. But I usually come back from the garden a nicer person than I was when I went into it. And I am so proud that when my three year old finds a dandelion flower, she blows it to make a wish but also plants as many of the seeds as she can, so as to get more dandelions later. Particularly in other people's lawns :-) 

And this week, we have a banana flower - what lush luxury is this?