Happy Anniversary, Garden of Envy!

It’s been a year since I celebrated Father’s Day by going off by myself and enjoying a local garden tour.

BLOG GT roses at Jackie Marro's I want them

I saw things that filled me with envy: strawberry patches, flower beds, climbing roses, sun-dappled frog ponds. I wanted them all, and I’m pleased to say that following a year of dirty, itchy, back-breaking work, I now have them, but they come with a price.

The strawberry patch has brought with it a game of drama and suspense. The strawberries are delicious—when I’m allowed to eat them. The chipmunks swoop in and grab them just before I decide they’re ripe enough to pick. So far owl decoys have not worked. I’m thinking of installing a motion sensor security alarm.

160619_strawberry pink                     160619_strawberry red


160619_coneflowers2I love the flower beds. Love them. But they’re new, so they’re not yet yielding anything I’m willing to cut. In fact, I wonder if they’ll ever yield anything I’ll be willing to cut. I planted those seeds, watered them, nurtured them, talked to them (yes, I do this constantly; do with that information what you will) and I can’t imaging going at them with a scissors. So much for fresh cut flowers in the house. You can only see them if you go down the hill in my back yard and sit among them on the bench next to this little fairy.

160619_fairy      160619_honeysuckle

Oh, and the climbing roses. I wanted them so much. I’m so happy to finally have them. 160619_roseskyHere’s the thing though, they attract caterpillars. Caterpillars turn me into a barbarian.

Never before have I gone after a species with such violence. I step on them indiscriminately. I squeeze them with my bare hands. None are spared. I’ll take my life in my hands and climb to the top rung of the ladder to squish one single caterpillar. One. No leaf is worth sacrificing, and no caterpillar will be left behind. I look in the mirror after a killing spree and think, “Who am I?”

16MaygardendayfrogThe frog ponds are the best.

They started out as vernal pools. They were always there, filling up in the spring and emptying in the fall; I just never paid them much attention. Now that I’ve cleared paths around them and created places to sit, I see that they are frog ponds. Frog ponds!

The music is majestic. Come sundown in my back yard, you’ll hear the birds, crickets, and frogs all singing together. It’s gorgeous, and worth every thorn, poison ivy rash, and muscle sprain.

I’ve spent a year creating the Garden of Envy. Now it’s time to sit and enjoy it.

Favorite Scenes: “Throwaways”

It’s that time of year again.

Time to thin the carrots and the beets. 16Maygardendaybeets

I hate doing it. It’s so hard to decide who goes! And yes, I gave the tiny seedlings a personal pronoun because by this point, I’ve grown so attached to them that they feel sort of people-ish to me.

I planted them months ago, watered them, and spent mental energy hoping they’d germinate, sprout, grow, and thrive despite bugs, temperature fluctuations, and my own inability to figure out if they’ve been watered or over-watered.

b carrots and beetsI know if I’m brave and determined about it, they will one day look like this, but by the time they’re big enough to cull, I’ve invested too much time to be carefree about ripping some of them out.

Every year, this process reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Tending to Grace. In it, the pragmatic Agatha thins her carrots without a second thought, but the rejected and abandoned Cornelia has a strong reaction: “I look at her throwaways and I see myself.”

I’m not the only one who loves this scene. I’ve taught Tending to Grace a number of times to high school students and even in a college-level ESL class. This scene elicits strong reactions from readers who know what it feels like to be left behind or tossed away.

Kim posted some of my students’ written responses to this scene and others in the novel in a blog post. There are many places in the story where readers feel a connection to Cornelia and her struggle for love and acceptance.

People need to connect, to make eye contact, to be called by name, to be seen, heard, understood, accepted, and cherished. Tending to Grace explores those basic human needs and the ways we can fulfill them for one another.

As I head out to do the dirty but necessary deed, I’ll think of the people who made me feel included, loved, and cherished, and I will consider ways that I can care for and be more careful of others.

Beet and carrot seedlings (with much prevaricating on my part!) can be discarded. A person cannot.

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