Eighteen years ago I began a gardening journal. In it I was able to capture when flowers bloomed, when they didn’t, or when I found a robin’s nest at the top of our rose trellis. Some plants would thrive in our yard, others would shrivel and die. We managed to go on after their loss, and somehow my journal offered relief from the grief when we lost people we loved, as well. Without realizing it, my journal taught me resilience.
Sometimes I wrote with great flourish, noting when the bleeding hearts poked their heads through the soil, or when my husband planted the ash, the river birch or the blue spruce in the back yard. Sometimes the writing would lapse for months, sometimes years. I loved to read through it on rainy afternoons.
This September we moved to Georgia from Washington State to be closer to my daughter and grandson. I unpacked my gardening journal one afternoon in October, and wrote a short entry, then picked it up to reread today. It spoke to me of moving to a new house once again, with a yard as brown and dismal as the one in Spokane ten years ago. I was out of sorts then, with barely anything alive in the yard. But soon my husband planted trees and flowers that took my breath away.
And yet here we were again, facing an empty yard, or at least not knowing what might have been planted by the previous owners. Certainly not enough to nourish our lagging spirits, even though we have planted one maple and two apple trees already, and my husband has engineered two amazing garden beds out back with raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, peas and radishes already planted, with warm weather vegetables on their way.
But the grass is brown. Trees are bare. Birds are not happy about it, either. And then an amazing thing happened overnight. The weather warmed, it rained, daffodils popped up all over the place, iris shoots appeared, and the tall camellia by the back deck bloomed.
My husband brought home a 13 ft. river birch and by afternoon it was tall and stately in the middle of our front yard. He then took it upon himself to uproot three spirea plants from a front flower bed and planted them around one corner of the garden beds in back. As if that weren’t enough, the next morning he was out with his shovel early, in a light misting rain, and had tackled the dismantling of a dozen large loropetalum bushes in the front yard, so massive I could not see a parked car in the driveway from the front door. Two of them are now planted behind the spirea in the back yard. He said he could move two a day. I suggested one a week. It’s a big job!
It occurred to me this morning that I should note all of this in the garden journal I began so many years ago. There will be so much more to write about here with a tea olive taller than me, an ever-blooming gardenia, the camellia that just won’t quit, and several dead and neglected plant stumps. As I think about it, I realize this journal is a reflection of my life. It has taught me many things about loss and letting go. Most importantly, it has taught me that a journal is personal and always speaks truth. The one thing I know in spades is that our journals never lie.