Her garden. This was the place she returned when there were in-between moments that needed to be filled. And the place she grew into a habit, something she could count on. It gave her a sense of letting go and controlling within the same breath.
When she left her marriage—suddenly, abruptly, unexpectedly—she took her sons and their medicine and left her life behind.
Over a year had passed before she realized she missed mostly her garden. As she brushed ashes off herself, blinking away sweat and fear, she began to rebuild a life, rebuild a home and rebuild a garden.
It was only recently that she finally saw the dirt. She dug until it hurt beneath her nails, nearly drawing blood. The earth was hard, clay-like, not a good foundation to nurture anything tender, such as a seedling.
Weeds choked out beauty and flowers clumped together as though they had support within a multitude. Tree branches hung low, blocking out the sun and creating a mowing hazard. Areas in the lawn were barren, cracked wide as though the bowels of the earth yearned for something from above.
The square foam would protect her knees from the hard ground. She tossed it down, knelt and began. Her hair drawn away from her face with a scarf made her look older than her youthful mid-forties. She smoothed back the wet strands stuck to her forehead, smearing dirt on her skin.
Dig the hole. Fill with water. Gentle settle in the roots. Add some food. Add fresh soil. Begin again.
One plant at a time, she built out of nothing. Early next spring, when it came time to till, she would fill the plot with water and encourage her children to take mud baths before the homemade compost was added. She promised this more to herself than her children.
For now, she had already mixed the compost and began mixing it into the soil, breaking clumps of root into sand and setting rocks gently into an empty terra-cotta pot. The belly of the earth was white ashes and she had to dig through this and replace the cinder with rich, black dirt. Somewhere inside she knew that gardening was more about growing good soil than bearing fruit. This was true of her life as well.
Weeks passed before she could finally run her hand over top the lavender, sprinkling the scent into the air. The cracks in her hands now stung, deep and dark from dryness. She took the soft earth into her hands and rubbed, polishing away dead cells. Then she pinched Rosemary, Sweet Basil and Lemon Thyme off the plants and rubbed the herbs into her palms, creating a mulch balm of her own.
The leaves on the pumpkin plant resembled elephant ears and they divided her perennials from her vegetables. Only one pumpkin sprouted to life this time. After another year, the garden would almost maintain itself, growing into something more than she imagined at the start. It would have its own life and plants would regrow on their own terms, in their own way.
The start of weeds and tiny grass blades poked along the edge and beckoned her attention.
Each morning before her children woke, she sat with coffee and tended her garden. This morning was no different. A small basket at her feet filled with onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. She only took from the herbs as needed for cooking, but usually brought a pinch of Stevia inside for her afternoon tea.
She squeezed her eyes and tasted the saltiness of her tears, unaware that she was crying. Her skin stretched tight from a sun burn, her scalp was tender to the morning rays. She heard her youngest wake, felt a foreign smile touch her lips and walked towards her home, towards her life.