In the garden, where we mine our hearts

08 April 2013

Nine months pregnant with Asher and I'd sit in a bed of weeds. 

Matt would grab hold of my arms and lower me down as I could neither bend nor reach over my belly to the ground. He would check on the veg, plucking and pulling what was ripe. I would weed anything within 12 inches and 360 degrees of my extreme roundness, turning on the garden pad (a soft yellow sunflower, reminding me of Kansas summers). Ella was usually nibbling on an herb of some sort - fennel, mostly - or elbow deep in mud. Jack manned the watering hose.

We would talk things over there: how we were doing, what our hopes were, where we had run short, what middle name we should give the baby. He'd be named Asher years before, and we needed a suitable follow-up. There was a long list of Irish names I couldn't settle on. Cian, Eoin, Niall, Liam, Rhys (this one was Welsh, but a favourite of mine).

In the end we gave him his grandfather's name. Jared. But those conversations in the garden weren't all for naught.

I never pictured myself here. Blooming with child on Irish soil. Matt was the gardener, the outdoorsman, the lumberjack. I was the city girl, happy with a book and a lamp and air conditioning. But in the garden, everything was up for discussion, and in turning the soil ("I'm working the land," I'd tell my mother-in-law, who laughed at the thought of it) we plucked our brains and mined our hearts for where the truth lay, where our spirits settled, where tears and contentedness met under cloudy skies and ocassional sprinkles. It was Ireland, after all, and no trip to the garden left us untouched by rain.

When the harvest was done, and the baby born, and the peas and green beans and lettuce and parsley eaten and used, we had nothing left but beet root. The beets just kept coming. Time was getting on and we were soon returning to America. The garden we'd have to let go of, but we were trying to outlast the beets.

I don't care for beet root. Don't like the texture or the colour or the taste, but it was a big hit among our friends (and children) here. We had beets for dinner, beets for company, beets in baby food, beets for dinner parties. We'd show up to a new house with a steaming plate of roasted beets, solidifying our post as favourite American guests among our crowd (at least, I like to think so).

We never saw the end of the beets. Had to give up the land before the last of them found their way to our plates.

It had been months since I'd been to the garden. Those days I did my pruning and weeding in a rocking chair with a baby at my breast, mining my heart for him who could only reply in full sighs and fragrant burps. We were leaving and the garden was no longer ours and this surprisingly beautiful moment had passed. Matt wanted to drive by it one last time, parking the car in front of the allotment, the beets now gone and the land tilled, lying in wait for the next gardener to dig deep.

I hate to admit it, but the truth is we cried there on that farmland, silently, so as not to alarm the children.  And then we drove away.

Yesterday we spent hours in the back garden. It was overgrown and messy, in need of a sharp handsaw. The seeds - sprouting in egg cartons and toilet paper rolls - were in need of a new home outdoors. Asher ran round in his pyjamas and wellies, Ella working a tiny hatchet on the remains of a pine tree. A rosebush had rerooted and webbed itself around several times. A mystery tropical plant (like a palm tree, but not) overshadowed a humble hydrangea, ready for spring.

Matt handed me the garden shears, "Do you want to prune back the dead blooms of the hydrangea? It'll make way for new growth."

The weight was heavy, but the burden was light.

"Yes, yes I do."


  1. Love gardening too. So many spiritual lessons from it just makes it doubly blessed.

    1. I agree! Nice to see you here, Shannon! :)

  2. I can't wait until the last snows melt and the mud dries up enough to walk in mine. I have chickens growing beside my garden and they cluck at me as I work.

    1. chickens! would love some chickens! but this garden we have here is a bit too small... maybe next time. Good luck with the snow. There's still a bit of snow in the mountains around Dublin, and it's still so cold here, but we've got little buds of peas in our windowsill. :)