Friday, May 6, 2011

What's buried in the garden

The Real Doctor and I are grappling with the frantic business of moving. So far this week, we have met with two realtors, a mover, three painters, and a general contractor. Monday, we meet with a pest inspector and a garden guy.

I’ve been spending some time every day trying to get some of the uglier weeds pulled out of our garden. At this point, it’s not terribly hard. Several years of persistent work have given us some very well established plants, so an hour’s toil makes a good patch of the yard look somewhat presentable. Of course, the garden is a work in progress. There are still plots that just haven’t gelled—something unsuitable got much too established, or something was established but just up and died, leaving a big dead spot. And of course, our neighbors still have vinca and St. Augustine grass, which requires unsleeping vigilance. A decade or so more would have made it perfect.

Leaving our garden will be one of the hardest things about leaving Sacramento. We have a loverly herb garden—just about every herb imaginable, six kinds of thyme, four kinds of oregano, winter savory, summer savory, rosemary, sage, chives, lemon grass, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lovage, horseradish, sorrel, and so on. It’s a joy to the nose, and not bad looking either. The plants are mature, forming nice mounds of deep green, yellow green, emerald green, olive green, gray green, and grass green. Elsewhere in the garden are fruit trees, asparagus, artichoke, the alstroemeria and irises (or irides) that my Mom gave me, and more. These replaced the wilderness of brambles and vinca that greeted us when we moved in.

All the philosophies that I use to console myself advise against attachment. This move is proving a mighty test of philosophical equanimity. Until now, I’ve never really understood attachment to a plot of land. After all, plants will grow in Oregon. But in my backyard here, there’s a bunch of time, a bunch of labor, a bunch of me and the Real Doctor. If you go out past the garage to that patch of lawn she liked to lie down on, and dig down about three feet, you’ll also find the decaying bones one of the best dogs I’ve ever known. So now, I kind of understand why patriots think that one particular bit of the earth’s surface is better than any other similarly endowed acreage.

But it could be worse, and it will get worse. My Mom’s garden is (as has been noted) better than yours, or mine, or pretty much anybody else’s. My parents are getting old and my Dad is infirm and fading into the fog of dementia. Their living situation gives them some hardship, and there are definitely mechanical aspects of their life that would be much improved by moving to an “assisted care facility” as the Real Doctor’s parents recently did. But I think it would destroy my Mom. Separating her from her house and garden—from the mature trees that she planted, from the exquisite collections of bulbs and aloes and succulents, from the landscape that she made—would be separating a body from its heart. Philosophers will counsel against attachment, and the intellect will nod sagely and agree. But reality and the heart can dissent loudly and painfully.

My inner philosopher compels me to note: I will not miss the leaky taps, the ill-fitting doors, the gentle breezes that one can feel indoors on a windy day, the unusable spaces in the kitchen, the three-quarters of the house that is uninsulated, the idiotic, outage-prone electrical system…

No comments:

Post a Comment