One of the things I love about gardening is sharing – the plants, the harvest, the stories. I’ve written about my uncle who loved gardening. I still have green winter onions that are the offspring of his plants. I have garlic that got its start in the field beside my grandmother’s house. Sometimes it’s not the physical plant, but the timing that adds a connection, however.
I got a call from a good friend this past January to tell me that his grandfather had passed away. When I get those calls, I get the urge to do something. The thing about death, however, is that there is nothing you can do. You can console, but too often it sounds empty. A few days later, I went to the visitation. After that, the funeral. But that morning, after the call, I went to the garden. I was craving action, no matter how immaterial to the news. I started blocking off a new bed. I sifted in load after load of compost. It was too early to plant just about anything, but I did anyway. Now, two months later, that bed is filled with greens – rocket, oakleaf, cimmaron. This evening, I’ll enjoy the first harvest. And I’ll remember, just as I have every time I’ve watered and weeded it, a man I only met once. I’ll remember the stories his grandson told me. How his tractor had a spot on it were the paint had worn through, rubbed away from countless ride-alongs by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. How he climbed up onto that tractor every morning, not letting a disability stop him. How he loved his family and left that as his greatest legacy. I feel almost as though I’m stealing memories that are not my own, but I’m also one more person who will now remember forever who this man was. So, a garden bed, while it pales in comparison to a grandson who wore overalls to the funeral, seemed a fitting tribute to a well-loved farmer.