Digging Deep

Dear Friends,

I’m not much of a gardener. Digging around in the dirt has never appealed to me, and there are about a million other things I’d rather be doing on a summer day in Colorado. Sitting half-submerged in Boulder Creek for one, reading a good book and watching kayakers float by. Hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Swimming outside at Spruce Pool, going to the Farmer’s Market and walking the Creek Path…as I said, a million other things.

But I had a small space in front of my old house where there was a garden, so every year around the 4th of July, I would haul a couple of flats of flowers up, and spend a few hours sticking them in the ground.I’d dig shallow holes (who wants to be doing this anyway?) and shove the poor things in there, with barely enough room for their squared-off roots. Then I’d pile some mulch over the whole thing and go for a hike. When the deer ate everything, or the plants would die, I would shrug. “Life is transitory” I’d say, and go do something else.

The truth is that when it came to gardening, and other aspects of my life, I couldn’t really envision the future.  I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, in a “live for today” kind of family. I  didn’t know how to dig deep and plan for the long term.  I was an annual, rather than a perennial  kind of a gal.

Then of course, came the wildfire that ate my house and destroyed my land. Afterwards, my land looked bombed-out;  nothing but ashes, burned sticks, and grey desolation.

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Contrary to popular belief, my land would not have recovered on its own.  If I hadn’t jumped in immediately and started rehabbing it, my meadow would have become three acres of tall, sticky weeds and thorns. So all of a sudden, I had to become a gardener on a grand scale.  Imagine trying to clear, and then plant two football fields of land, by hand, mostly by yourself. That’s what it was like.

I pulled weeds, tossed bags of seed, scattered bales of straw and hauled hoses and sprinklers until I was ready to drop.

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For three summers, that was my life. Weeding, seeding, watering, waiting to see if my meadow would recover. And it did! What was once desolation is blooming again.

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Neighbors in the Green Meadow

 

Which brings me to the front of my new house, and the big empty space that was designed for a garden. Sigh.

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After I moved in,  I stared and stared at the empty garden, trying to envision… something. I had professional landscapers do drawings and give me estimates, but by that time I’d used all the insurance money rebuilding the house. When the lowest estimate came in at twelve thousand dollars (!) I decided I’d rather actually have furniture, so the empty garden just stayed empty. For four years.

Then, one morning in spring, I looked at my mostly-empty garden and saw something in my mind. A pattern began to emerge, a vision, a picture. Of big bushy lavender plants, and yellow cinquefoil, and creeping ice plants and blue verbena. I saw bunches of bulbs, blooming in the spring – daffodils and iris; wind chimes and a small fountain bubbling… I could see it, I could hear it. I jumped into my car before the vision faded, and excitedly bought plants, and a birdbath, and a watering system to install, and bags and bags of soil.  I was enchanted with the names of the plants I was buying –  Basket of Gold, Snow in Summer, Crystal River Veronica. The woman at the store said, “You’re quite the gardener!” and I just had to laugh.

When I got home I planted carefully and deeply.  I laid out the drippers and sprinklers and sat the plants on the ground before I put them in, to see what it all might look like. It was like painting, like composing a photograph. It didn’t feel like drudgery, it felt like art.

Today my front garden looks like this.

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It’s not spectacular, but it’s a beginning. I sit outside and look at it in the morning, admiring the feisty little survivors growing up here at 8,000 feet, and smile.

In the fall I’ll plant a little aspen tree, and surround it with lots and lots of bulbs for the spring. I can imagine the flowers emerging after the long winter — iris and daffodils and tulips and lilies — tiny shoots reaching for the sun; full of color, full of promise, full of hope.

Somehow, in spite of everything, I have learned to see into the future. Somehow, I have learned to dig deep.

Wishing You and Yours a Beautiful Summer,

Andi

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Fox in the New Garden

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25 Responses to Digging Deep

  1. Leslie says:

    Well done for a non-gardener! You will come to love having it around, just like an old friend.

  2. Marian Thier says:

    And the plants will serve you well, smiling at you when you arise and closing up at night along with you. Lovely to see how your home continues to be more and more of a home.

    • Andi says:

      Thank you, Dearest Marian, for all your support and love and cheerleading these past five years. “Home” continues to spread its roots and grow.

  3. Gargi (McNaughton) Hales says:

    Thank you, Andi! Glad to hear of the beauty in your world. Happy Birthday Bliss to you.

    • Andi says:

      Dearest Gargi-ji! How lovely to hear from you. Happy Birthday Bliss back atcha, and thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. Lori in Arizona says:

    Have missed your posts! Maybe you are now truly planted!

  5. Nature’s gardening skill really hits home when you contemplate how much work it is to create a garden on a very small patch of ground. It looks lovely.

    • Andi says:

      Thanks Dear Claire. The little sprinklers are sprinkling right now as I write, and it’s so soothing to look at. Lavender! I’ll harvest it in the Fall :-)

  6. Jacqui says:

    It makes me tired just to think of all you have had to do. You need a hammock for a long rest with a good book. (But no place to hang it, right?)

    Enjoy!

  7. Judy Wathen says:

    What a wonderful surprise to awaken to a post from you, Andi. It has been too long. I have missed being transported into your world. Please continue to share your thoughts and experiences again.

    • Andi says:

      Hi Judy, Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I never know when a little essay will come find me – I basically have to wait and listen….This one hit while I was, yep, working in the garden. Had to put everything down and go grab the laptop to capture it. Will continue to share the visits of The Muse when she arrives!

  8. Mandie says:

    Oh my gosh, you were writing my story, as well. As someone who came of age in Boulder in the early 70’s, a time when you could take off for the weekend for a mountain camping/climbing adventure and never, ever have to plan….no worrying about reservations for a campsite, no carefully planning the time of day to avoid traffic congestion, etc…I never really got good at planning for the future, either. And my partner and I also shared the same feeling about yard/garden work…who wants to be married to a yard when we could be off to the San Juans for a long weekend climbing adventure?

    But this year, first time in my life, I planted a small 4×4 garden. I’ve been absolutely amazed at how satisfying it is to the soul to watch the butter lettuce, two kinds of kale, delicate chard, and purple cherokee heirloom tomatoes respond to some tlc, and seemingly happily offer their life to sustain us. I’m thinking this is something that I’ll do now every year!

    • Andi says:

      Mandie, Thanks so much for your comment – you got it exactly! This post is really about how we change over time, how we grow, like the plants we put into the ground, into new people, endlessly blooming. Sometimes the change is subtle over time, and sometimes sudden, a result of pain and loss, but if we stay open to the process, we learn to dig deep, and to become more rooted, and finally, bloom. Thanks again for visiting!

  9. Greg Wright says:

    Master gardener! I see you watching life grow all around you…

  10. Tricia Fitzpatrick says:

    Your garden is impressive, especially the amazing work you did to restore the land after the fire. Nothing more harmonious than small patches of organized color surrounded by beautiful native grasses. Enjoy the resiliency!

    • Andi says:

      I love that description, Tricia, “small patches of organized color surrounded by beautiful native grasses,” a perfect description!

  11. Monique Hersh says:

    Andi,

    And throughout this gardening process you are blooming as well.

  12. Diana Gabriella says:

    So simple and lovely! Blessings and happiness to you, And 💖

  13. Rivvy Neshama says:

    Happy to have you join the ranks! For me, gardening (especially weeding) is about the most grounding thing I do, since it is literally going into the ground! I love your whimsical garden!

  14. Andi, I was thinking about you this morning as I’m hearing this morning about the Sunshine Canyon fire outside of Boulder.

    So I went looking for your blog.

    Thank you for talking about your garden . . . and the gift that came in an ugly package.

    I hate that some of your photos are not showing up – would love to see how your garden is coming.

    Sending good thoughts to you on your journey and hoping you stay safe today.

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