As the Garden Grows, So Should the Gardener
article and illustration by Lou Davenport
Let me ask you something. Are you aware that there is only ONE of you…only one of you on this entire planet? Do you feel like you deserve to be happy? Do you realize that YOU are the only one who can do this for yourself? I will tell you a secret about myself. I did not know any of the above, not really, until I was in my sixties! What it took to get it through my “hard head” was something akin to “life as you have known it is now over!” This is my story of how one of the worst things I ever faced, turned into one of God’s greatest blessings. Sometimes, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, (if you try sometimes, you might just find) You Just Might Get What You Need! Thank you Mick and Keith!
My “thing” was a broken marriage. I was a mess. I was not just heart broken, I was heart crushed. The late Lewis Grizzard penned an apt description when he wrote, “They tore out my heart and stomped that sucker flat!”
I do not talk about my broken marriage and divorce often. To me, it is a sign that all the hard work I have done for myself has paid off. But, the lessons I learned in this difficult way, will be ones I will never forget or repeat.
I write this with hope that my own story of healing might help someone. I am lucky that I have a wonderful family and friends. They were patient with me, and I am forever thankful. But, this was a “do it yourself project,” and I would like to share how I “made it through the worst.” There are no “quick fixes” for this type of heartbreak. I will not promise that my methods will work for everyone.
Five years ago, I found myself alone, scared, confused and broken, especially financially. I am a strong-willed woman, but I thought this might be more than I could handle. But, I packed up and left, knowing I had to and that I would never return.
It’s funny how certain songs just happen to come on the radio just when you need to hear them. As I turned my nearly old car onto I-20, Jerry Reed came on the radio singing, “Eastbound and Down!” I was heading back east to Monroe to a small house that I prayed would be my refuge and sanctuary.
I was on “auto pilot.” I was alone, and all I could think of was a Merle Haggard song, “What Am I Gonna Do With the Rest of My Life?” I do not think reality hit me until I was sitting on my porch that I really took a look at my back yard. Reality hit me like a lightning bolt! That neglected, ragged, unloved yard looked as bad as I felt! THAT YARD WAS ME! I started crying again. I happened to look up to blow my nose, and I caught a glimpse of a bright white tree against a cobalt blue sky. It was a Sycamore tree! That is when I knew what I had to do!
For as long as I can remember, I have loved playing in the dirt. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I was not a “girly girl.” I was more of a “wild child.” All I really cared about was being outside barefoot, wearing only a pair of J.C. Penney white cotton panties, with a stolen spoon from the kitchen, digging in the dirt underneath “my tree.” That tree was a Sycamore tree! I still remember my grandmother catching me in the utensils drawer “snitching” another spoon saying, “You better bring that back in, young lady!” I never did.
I made amazing creations in the dirt underneath that tree. Roads, cities, dug lakes and filled them with water and made lots of mud! I built “frog houses,” where you dig up a lot of dirt, pack the dirt over your bare foot and slowly pull your foot out! TaDa! A frog house! I was in my own little world under “my” tree. I had no concept of time. My mother had to practically drag me inside. I hated bath time! She finally figured out to just get the water hose and “hose me down!” My Mom and I were great at making compromises!
All these memories flooded back when I saw that Sycamore tree. It was a sign to play in the dirt once again! I determined I would reclaim that poor, pitiful looking yard. I had no idea how and I did not have any kind of plan! I just started. The rest would somehow fall into place.
That first day I picked up enough sticks and branches to have a huge bon fire! I would have had one, but firetrucks would have been called and who knows what all I could have caught fire! But, those sticks were gone!
The next day, I found my rake. I hate to rake leaves! I put my garden gloves on and grabbed that rake and took on those leaves with a vengence. That got boring pretty quickly, so I switched to trying to make it fun. I started raking the leaves into paths.
In a corner of the yard, I found some nearly buried concrete chunks. I saw potential. Maybe a “rock garden” of sorts. Those old chunks really gave me a hard time, but, like I said earlier. I was on a mission and no chunk of concrete was going to get the best of me! I got out my shovel, little trowel, a trusty spoon, an old knife and tackled those chunks with everything I had!
Little by little, I started digging. Sweaty, dirty and out of breath, first one out! But, there were about 20 more to go! I dug, cried, cussed, dug some more, cut roots away. After a week, I had those chunks out! I could see what I “had to work with!” I eyed them like I would have some beautiful pieces of blue slate!
Now, I had to move them. Those chunks are heavy! I had to push, pull, even roll them over to the place I had picked out. Yes, I dropped one or two on my toe! I did bring in some “muscle,” my grandson, Noah, to help. We both struggled enough, until we made a design with them, leaving pockets where I thought I would plant hostas. No “good dirt” for those pockets yet, but, I thought, I’ll figure that out later.
Weeds were everywhere. I weeded until my fingers were sore. My gardening gloves became “holy.” I used all my spare leaves for mulch. I could begin to see how much progress I was making.
Mounds of liriope were on the side of my house. It had never been thinned. Free plants! I dug, divided and hauled bucketfuls of it to the back. I may have dug at least a thousand holes and placed a sprig in each. I planted them into curved areas. A freshly planted bed of liriope will not win a gardening award, but I gave myself one anyway!
Finally, I was able to fill the pockets with “good dirt” for the hostas. What I did not count on were roots! Roots of all sizes! I dug, cut, cussed, but got those hostas planted. One particular bunch of roots made me so angry I threw my trowel!
With my collection of “old junk,” I completed my “healing garden.” First was my prized bottle tree with it’s blue bottles. My other “junk” found homes, too. An old bicycle, old iron bed frames, old signs, gazing balls, buckets, flowers made from old tractor parts. And, yes, I have flamingos! My “guardian” is a crazy looking ceramic head on a stick by my friend, Kent Follette. It’s a funky place, but, that yard had come back to life and so had I!
I have come a long way in these past 5 years. It has not always been easy. I still have “flashbacks.” Not often, but I’ve learned to just get it out! Cry; make that ugly cry face! Throw something! Act like a fool! Get old left over emotions out! Before you know it, you will be laughing at yourself!
There were times when I wanted to give up. You will find out how strong you are even when you think you are the biggest wimp! There is only one you! You will find your blessings can come out of the worst thing you thought ever happened to you. The difficult experiences become another part of you. You are different. You have grown into a better version of you. And, as a bonus, the people who have hurt you just become a distant memory.
Now, when I look out over my garden, I think, “You can bury a lot of troubles by digging in the dirt.” I also say, “Thank You God for my new life.” I nailed one of my first “holy” gardening gloves onto one of the big trees. That glove is a reminder of the blood, sweat, tears, and love that I put into my “healing garden.”