Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Something Wrong is Happening

I've spent countless nights falling asleep not to sheep jumping over a fence, but fixating on garden design--where should plant x go, what if I move plant y here to where plant b is, and then texture it in this way.... I've spent hours on my knees looking at the undersides of leaves, down at ground level between their stems to witness a whole different world invisible to my 5'10" vantage point. I've burned my back, I've cut my skin open, I've been stung, I've been angry, I've been perfectly balanced, I've sweat like a fountain, I've bled and shed my spirit over this garden like a sheet placed over morning glories before the first frost. The coverage of my life in this garden is total, comfortable. And complete.














Maybe not complete, but I feel it's run its course. I've noticed a sharp change in my presence in the garden--not a gardener for myself in the moment, but one looking forward, making a place ready for someone else as a gift. And not birds or insects or reptiles, I mean a new owner.














Oh, I'm not moving anywhere soon, but I'm applying for university teaching jobs, and I am more ready than ever in my life to begin this new chapter a year from now, to move and put down real roots, to make a real home in a real place I love. Nothing against Nebraska or this fine home and garden, I just feel myself slipping away and I can't do anything about it.














I still long to go outside, but there's not much to do. The garden is planted and is now left to its own devices, evolving as it will with only a few nips and tucks on my part. But the 1,500 feet feels constraining. I want more. I want to try more. And not just the rest of my .20A lot, but many acres. A few dozen. A few hundred.



















I feel bad now when I'm in the garden, like I'm watching over a sick relative, nursing something, treading water, afraid of what another owner might do here (lawn, pesticides), I'm just so conflicted. This fall I'm planting a few things I may never see mature, and simply hope someone won't pull out. Asters are blooming that never have before. 3-4 year old plants are just realizing their potential. I may be here another year or more, who knows, but it's too late. I won't spend money to add on, that's silly. I've begun pulling away and I hate that. I love this garden, I love what I've learned, I love who I've become because of it. But I suppose it's like any period or place in one's life--it teaches you, you live it fully, you learn from it, and when it's time to let go you have to let go, otherwise you won't be able to savor the next period or place to come along and learn what you need to learn.



















But lucky for me I don't have to let go just now. I'm headed outside into autumn, smoke riding the cool air. I suddenly feel a spark like a flame rekindled. I remember our first date, dear garden, the 18 yards of mulch, the young and eager iris and joe pye, the internet searches, the reference books, the failures and discoveries, the fantasies in my head when we were apart (so delicious, like a wave pulsing in my blood). When my hands reach into your soil it is my soil, our soil, clay becoming loam, roots grasping deeper and interlocking, a chorus in the soil, a chorus above, a hymn and a rhythm that was not here before in either of us.

15 comments:

Barbee' said...

I mirror you; your post could be about me, my garden and I. Not that I am moving on to bigger and better things in my life. I am pulling away and thinking of the next owner and future of this garden, because at 75 years I am getting old and see the end of my gardening here approaching rapidly. There is so much of me in it and it in me. Twenty-plus years in one garden will do that to one. A toast to you and your bright future... and gardens to come!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

It would be hard knowing you may be leaving a garden at some point. Our gardens really are a part of us. It's good you can write and express yourself this way.

Barbee and Benjamin, I am 59, and at this point, my plan is to let the next owners make changes they want, but I will keep gardening the way I want to as long as I am able. Who knows, maybe someone will be attracted to a yard with very little grass to mow. On the other hand, my body may not let me garden as much. Time will tell.

scottweberpdx said...

I echo many of the sentiments before...and as much as I hate to think of leaving this garden behind someday, there's a pretty good chance I will. I've left behind a garden (on much smaller scales) before, and each time, it's bittersweet. During the growing season, I actually resent even a few days spent away from the garden...which is crazy, I know, but I miss it! I do dream of owning a small acreage someday...with FAR more room to stretch my legs and garden on a far grander scale. Good luck to whatever path you go down.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Barbee--20 yrs is a long time, yet really just a blip on the radar. I sure hope I can find a place and be 30, 40, 50 years in it yet. could you imagine the life lived in such a place? We know what it's like in 20yrs and 4, respectively, so imagine even more. And isn't 75 the new 55? :)
Sue--You gave me an idea. Before I sell, rip up all the grass, every last blade. That's paying it forward!
Scott--Oh yeah, I hate leaving for even a day in mid summer. You never know what you'll miss, because the moments are always so mercurial and quick! We have a disease, and it rocks.

Sunnyside Dru said...

I added to a garden at the last house we owned. Huge, beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons were there, along with dogwoods galore. I added a variety of perennials, amending the soils, adding mulch, water features, sculptures. Window boxes.

The new owners pulled every single thing out and ran grass straight to the foundation of the house. That is all, nothing else.

Here on the farm we are working to leave things alone, to add more natives via seed and let the grass grow, let the chickens mow, the ducks eat every mosquito, the pigs clear our fence lines. It was time to move on, and onto a beautiful space, but seeing all that grass as I drive by the old place chokes me up.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

LOL on the grass ripping. I'm assuming you're over that impulse by now.

Rohrerbot said...

The things you write about are similiar to my own fears about the garden I'll eventually have to leave behind when and if we move. I've spent evenings not falling asleep because I'm planning in my head how the garden will be shaped...and for what?? No one cares except us gardeing types:) But try to enjoy it as best you can...it's really a lovely garden.

Heather@RestoringTheLandscape.com said...

Benjamin,
If you move north to MN, you can come and dig as many natives from my garden to start your new one.

It is hard leaving a garden, I have done so many times and at my home now I've set some pretty deep roots.
Heather

Benjamin Vogt said...

R--Oh yeah, in the early days especially I could not fall asleep at night, finally had to get up to sketch or make lists! And other people do care, the people of birds, insects, reptiles, etc. They care a good deal my friend!
H--I just may move north next year! Looking for prof teaching jobs, and some are in the TC or WI. But could I do zone 4? At least in 10 years it'll be zone 5, right?

wiseacre said...

I've left so many gardens behind it's hard to remember them all. Of course I design and install them for others but each is my own. I feel like you but each parting means I can put my soul into the next.

Marguerite said...

The good news in leaving is that you're moving forward. Starting something new is always good for learning and expanding our horizons. Having left my own garden though I can understand the difficulty in letting go. A big part, as you've pointed out, is the worry of what the next person will do. Will they love it as much as you do?

Les said...

Perhaps when the time comes, after you have obtained an ideal teaching position, bought a great big parcel of land and are living in a place you love - your current home will be sold to someone because of the garden and not despite it.

Benjamin Vogt said...

M--Well, not leaving YET. So I'll go plant a few more things and hope to pay it forward. When I do leave someday, you can expect the most lamenting, feeling, poetic post I've ever done in my life.
L--Now THAT sounds like a plan. And we will sell this house ourselves, no realtor. I have this dream where he buyers will want me to talk them through the plants, make up lists and ideas and advice, and email me pics and questions years later. It'd be like a student emailing later in life and thanking you, checking in.

Elephant's Eye said...

Oh Benjamin that is what we wildlife gardeners wish for - someone who won't rip out all the plants for 'easy maintenance lawn'. Who will continue to cherish our wildlife. Today I was weeding, carefully leaving some clumps of tall wild oats for the weavers to build their nests.

jake Allen said...

Those daisies are lovely. Reminds me of my mum's wooden shed.