Gardening: hope for the future and ties to the past

Gardening is all about hope and faith in tomorrow. We plant a seed with the expectation that, should everything go well, that little seed will germinate, sprout, grow and mature.

But the act of gardening is also deeply rooted (pardon the pun) to the past. Those seeds were produced in a previous season, sometimes even years or decades earlier. For many cultures, generations are closely linked through seeds – carefully planting, harvesting and storing seeds – passing the collective knowledge down the line over the course of centuries.

Not having a lot of tangible connections to my own roots, I love it when I can make tenuous ties back to a deeper history. One place I have been able to do this is in my garden.

I never knew either of my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother died before I was born and my maternal grandmother, who I did meet on several occasions passed away when I was about four – my memories are few and due to her deteriorating health, not terribly pleasant.

According to my Dad, his mother loved to garden (though what wasn’t to love – she had two sons to send out and pull weeds!). And in her garden, she always planted marigolds.

My dad told me this one day when he was taking the OBLIGATORY tour of my garden that everyone must do when they visit (when things are growing) and noted my marigolds. I also always plant them in my garden because I enjoy them and they help deter pests, but now I have one more reason to do so!

From then on, when I plant the marigold seeds, I like to think about my grandmother and wonder what else we might have had in common. I like to think that she would have been proud of me and would have enjoyed my garden tours as I excitedly point out every new bud, blossom and emerging fruit that had appeared since a previous visit.

From what I know of my maternal grandmother, I doubt she would have been much of a gardener. But I did learn a few seasons ago from my mom that her mother always preferred yellow tomato varieties because they were less acidic.

Since that time, I have always included at least one yellow tomato plant in my garden in her honor. And she was right! They are much less acidic and very enjoyable to eat fresh!

Sometimes it’s just the little things. The simple things that bring greater depth and meaning to the everyday.

Bittersweet: the taste of true friendship

I lost a dear friend this week.

As I attended her funeral yesterday, I was struck by the number of times that I heard someone say (either to me or just overhearing conversation around me) how sweet Grace was.

Yes, Grace was sweet, but perhaps what I loved most about her, was alongside the love and affection she generously showed, she was never timid about serving up a big ole healthy heap of honesty.

And let’s face it, the truth isn’t always sweet. Sometimes it’s bitter. Sometime’s it’s ugly, Sometimes, it’s a sharp jagged pill that isn’t easy to swallow.

My friendship with Grace probably wouldn’t be considered typical by most people. Separated in age by a few decades, she was old enough to be my mother, but in many ways she was kind of like the grandmother I never had.

She loved me. I knew she loved me. She loved me without conditions, preconceived notions or expectations. And I loved her.

We were closest during a period of my life when I was going through some difficult times. I was a young woman at a crossroads when a lot of decisions were made and when I really needed exactly the kind of love and friendship that Grace provided.

She supported me, she encouraged me, she listened to me, and when I wanted it the least and needed it the most, she’d hit me upside the head with some cold, hard, honest-to-goodness TRUTH.

Needless to say, we didn’t always part company with mutual feelings of the warm and fuzzy variety. Because, did I forget to mention? sometimes I don’t mind saying exactly what I think either.

I always knew I was in for it when she would sigh, roll her eyes, and start in with “I mean….”. And I knew by the time she got to “…and everything” that she had said her piece and it was up to me to take it or leave it.

I didn’t always enjoy it, but I always appreciated that I could depend on Grace to tell it to me like it was!

I don’t know how many hours I would have had to have spent on the couch at a shrink’s office to equal my time with Grace, sitting at her dining table with a couple decks of cards between us as we chatted through some nice long games of Canasta… but I would hate to be on the receiving end of that shrink’s bill!

(She will always be my favorite Canasta opponent – as ruthless and as cunning as myself – we were merciless when we played each other, relishing in the other’s defeat!)

Was Grace sweet? I don’t know in all honesty if, while she was still living, that would have been the word to first come to my mind in describing my dear friend. And I’m not sure, in the spirit of our friendship, if I can honor her memory with that description today.

But I know this. She loved with all her heart. She loved her family. She loved her friends. She loved her God and Savior. She loved her Church. And I know for a fact that she loved me.

We loved each other, we loved each other through our prickly parts, in spite of our thorns, and sometimes, maybe even because of them! There is no better testament to true love, true friendship than that.

Grace, you were truly loved, you are greatly missed, your memory will be cherished!

and everything…