I planned and cut out two flower beds in front of my house, extending the builder’s foundation design down the sides of my steps. It wasn’t a big area – doesn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal, but I am wiped out.
On Saturday, I laid the borders and removed the grass in muggy 90-something degree weather, which really was the toughest part. Today I put together a wheelbarrow, turned the soil and mixed in humus, manure, and rich garden soil, planted, watered, and mulched.
So there I was with no distractions, down in the dirt, creating something new and beautiful, despite my sore muscles, sunburned skin, and jeans that kept falling down after stretching out from a wet, sweaty waistband.
And flashes of my former life flashed through my mind, as I recalled various home-landscaping projects from my past which were led by Mr. N/A. I felt pain with every single one of them.
The first one was outside our tiny condominium we purchased at the height of the market in the 80’s in the DC area. Sometime after telling me he wanted a divorce while we were on vacation in Mexico, he decided we should create a small flower bed. It was a triangle-shape, and we bought scalloped bricks for the edging. I remember dropping one of them on my foot – I still have a scar. Strains of Sinead O’Conner’s Nothing Compares to You set a melancholy mood in the background. I convinced myself it was a symbol of a new start, but my gut wrenched inside.
Our next place, a new single-family home in the suburbs, discovered by yours truly, had lots of opportunities for landscape design. My former husband was creative and meticulous, and he spent countless hours creating a backyard fence from scratch. The beautiful rose garden surprised me a little, complete with a hand-stacked stone retaining wall. But the biggest project was the one we did in the front of the house, outside our side-loading garage. His parents even came down to help. We dug out the huge area and mixed in all the goodies, put down newspapers to block weeds, and planted azaleas, rhododendron, and a very ugly blue atlas cedar that I agreed on reluctantly as the other 3 ganged up on me with their own opinions.
I remember my arches hurt so badly the next day I could barely walk. No one warned me that stepping (or jumping, really) on a shovel with cute little flat tennies wasn’t the wisest decision.
I think I cried when that stupid tree finally went in; I told myself he was really trying – that putting all that time and effort into our garden was his way of apologizing and investing in our tiny family’s future.
And then, of course, there was the beautiful magnolia we planted in memory of our baby, lost in a miscarriage while he was traveling. We drove up to see his family shortly after my pregnancy ended – maybe it was his grandfather’s funeral – and I had an emotional breakdown. They all just looked at me like “there goes the wacko,” and I grieved the loss of my tiny baby on my own in his mother’s guest room.
He decided to call in the professionals for help with our last house. It was a huge undertaking, and I decided to stay out of it, mostly, as I had my own work cut out for me on the inside of the house. I guess I don’t remember much pain there, except for the argument with the son of the landscapers over the mismatched concrete-patio pour. (I think Mr. N/A actually defended me on that one, surprisingly enough.) Mostly I just felt numb and ambivalent. Sometimes I wonder what triggered that round of guilty behavior. Anyway, I think the subsequent owners yanked it all out and created their own design.
What a waste. Seventeen years of projects and pain. Seventeen years of wondering why my love was never enough.
Those gardening memories are in the past, and this weekend’s garden was not about that. This garden is about gratefulness. I planted lavender plants in pink, white, and purple – the scent is simply divine and perfumes the path up to my front door. The flats of annuals in variations of yellow, my favorite color, are going to make a sunny welcome for my future.
Oh, and my little stick I planted a few weeks ago? Budding. 🙂 Here comes the good stuff…