Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Strength of Memory

I'm an untidy gardener. I simply cannot be ruthless with volunteers in the garden nor with weeds in the lawn.

The garden plot where I sowed zinnia and cosmo seeds last year is this year a vegetable and herb garden - beans, lettuces (now gone by), cucumber plants, parsley, thyme, basil, camomile, carrots and radishes sown together (the radish seedlings break open the ground making it easier for the feathery carrot seedlings to push through), golden beets. But before any of this came to be, there were the obvious volunteer cosmo seedlings - seeds which matured and dropped to the ground last year, wintered over and voluntarily germinated this spring.

Volunteer plants seem to me to be much stronger than those sown on purpose. These are vigorous cosmo plants, with thick, strong stems. They have just begun to bloom. Fortunately I love cosmos. Unfortunately, if I were not at least a little ruthless, the vegetables and herbs would not stand a chance, so I pulled some up and replanted them to what became the zinnia bed this year, and others I just plain pull up and throw on the compost.

Still, there are an awful lot of cosmo plants. However, some of them I can put to good use - lettuces don't like the hot, sunny days of summer. They bolt (go to flower and then seed, turning the leaves bitter). The cosmo plants are casting shade on the area where I would like to reseed lettuces and arugula. I can use that shade for the time being, to extend the season for these luscious leafy greens.

But even at that, as I sat on the flagstone patio this morning, sipping my Earl Grey Tea with Lavendar, and saying Morning Prayer and reading the psalms for the day, I looked over the gardens, and I realize that the veg/herb garden could stand for me to be a little more ruthless still - and I could stand to do with a few fewer cosmo plants.

Meanwhile, I gazed at the lawn between the garden and the patio, the lawn I haven't mown for two weeks now, which, since I'm using a reel mower, the kind with no power source except my feet and arms, is creating a problem. But, you see, there are English plaintain in the lawn. Now, as a teacher, I am not going to succumb to posting a link for you. You must go and find out for yourself what English plaintain look like. They have long, slender leaves, which stay close to the ground. Long thin stems rise above the surrounding grass, topped with small, scruffy heads given to tiny whitish flowers which themselves grow on tiny threads in a crown around the flower head.

They are not beautiful flowers. But one morning last week, I looked out on the lawn and was transported back to the days of my childhood in Millington, New Jersey, and the yard of Mrs. Brunowski and her daughter. The early morning sun fell across the lawn, the humidity made just a little haze to heighten the magical effect, and the heads of the plaintains, tipped just a tiny bit by dew, shone. From them arose those little gaggles of gnats, the hatch of the day, swirling in little tiny groupings about the flower heads. It all felt just like I remembered the magic of being in the Burnowski garden on River Road, where Mrs. B., who was not strong, would sit in a wicker chair in the grass, which was always a little untidy. I wish I could describe it for you, but I can't, and you must trust me that it does not matter.

What does matter is that because of the strength of that memory, I cannot bring myself to mow the lawn, not just yet, just in case I will again be sitting on the patio at just the right time of morning to have that same set of circumstances occur which will transport me back to a memory which now owes more to my vivid imigination than fact, and is far more important than fact.

For the health of the plants in my gardens, I do have to take a few minutes each day to pull up a few weeds. But truly, I have no intention of pulling up the nonfactual memories that give richness to my spirit, weeds though those memories may be. One persons weeds could very easily be my wild flowers. I will not part with them until the day comes when I must, even if it means living with an untidy garden.


johnieb said...

I enjoy your comments at MP's, I have noted before there's a crazy race-driver wannabe in Connecticut; why will my (giving all the allowance I feel can be justified) middle-aged brain never think to go to a diocesan convention and say "Rev Lois?" "JohnieB"

Gardening and Lime Rock just makes it all the more inexplicable.

Pedal to da metal, Grrrl!

revLois Keen said...

"JohnieB?" "Rev Lois"! I'm starting to get a little scared of my first track day at Lime Rock. But then...!

Thanks for the encouragement.