Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I'm beginning to understand that I need--not just desire, but need--growing things around me. That it's more than a matter of preference, more than simply conse-
quence of a "green thumb" inherited from my forebears.

At 9 or 10, I asked my mother--maybe my father, actually, since he was the gardener of our house--for dibs on a patch of earth beside our front stairs. I was thrilled when I got it. I made furrows just as the marigold packet indicated, and dropped the tiny spear-like seeds into them, hopeful.
Could something really grow from these dry things? I covered them, anxious about using the right amount of soil, then gingerly watered them in, careful not to flood them out. Soon, seedlings popped up, and then before I knew it, full grown flowers appeared on tall stems. It was a miracle to me. And I had opened a door.

When I arrived in Dublin two Julys ago, our fifth floor apartment greenery consisted of one seriously twiggy ficus, a single pale bamboo stalk, and some patio plants long overdue for a deadheading. All of them seemed rather desperate for love, and I was glad to provide it. And now, two years later, I can still feel how my eyes practically craved them, how reflexively my hands would reach to pinch or trim or turn them.
But it's only now, surrounded by my surfeit of growing things, taking all the delight I take in them, that I realize just how much my Dublin "charges" were a lifeline for me.

There is a dialogue, a correspondence between us, me and the growing things. I am earth too, of course, and we go together like fish and water. It was in Dublin, separate from "mine," that I learned what a grace is a piece of the earth to tend. Everyone, I thought, should have the privilege of a piece of earth to tend. And for all the love apparent in them, I could see--
feel--in front garden after front garden plot, how demonstrably grateful were the Dubliners for theirs.

For so long I did not know: I have been in conversation with the earth all this time--since five at least, when the sunshiny glow of dandelions had me presenting fistsful of them to my mother. Listening, responding, asking, obliging. These green beings I've been fortunate to encounter or tend along the way are not just ornament, accoutrements. These are relationships I have cultivated, generous in the give and take, with all love given handsomely rewarded.


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