You know how sometimes things fall apart? Or at least it seems like they do? Like you normally deal with life’s one-two punches with grace and humor and a healthy perspective, but for whatever reason lately you haven’t been able to stay on stable footing, and your perspective slants everything sideways and you regress back to childhood? I’ve been having a run of days like that.

I won’t deliver unto you the litany of my trials and tribulations. Work stuff. Home stuff. Kid stuff. Financial apocalypse. Exorcisms. A 17-year-old pregnant married daughter who is going to give birth any day. And so on.

I’ve noticed when you’re strong and you smile through the bullshit, people tell you what a good job you’re doing. Keep it up. Good work. But when your confidence wavers – when your stiff upper lip quivers – that’s when you find out who your champions are.  I told a friend of mine the other day, “I woke up today and realized this is what I became when I grew up.” He told me I needed to change my story. Which I get. But sometimes, man… Sometimes when you lose your footing, it can be really hard to find it again.

We regain our much needed perspective in a variety of ways. Some people turn to yoga, which has always made me want to kick furniture and curse. Some people have church. There aren’t many things I’ve found that can right the boat, but in a past version of me, one of those things was gardening.

I left my ex-husband three years ago this month. The thing I miss most about the life I left behind is my herb garden, which I’d grown and tended and nurtured and loved until it was a flourishing Eden of smells. Rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, calendula, sage, lavender, oregano, mint. I didn’t get the house, so I didn’t get the garden.

I moved into my new apartment – a sixplex with a private patio – about six months ago. The place where I lived before was never home, and I’ve been trying desperately to make this house a home since I moved in. But, having spent the winter fighting an insidious mold problem, that’s been a challenge. Recently, though, the property management company came in and put in new windows, redid all the siding, and installed new vents. To celebrate, I bought new curtains.

And yesterday I planted a garden.

Yesterday was a dry, sunny Northwest spring day. I needed Vitamin D in the worst way – it doesn’t help your mood to spend nine months of the year under gray skies and drizzle — but this day was gorgeous.

I took all of my houseplants outside to repot them. I have a ton of plants: philodendron, angel-wing begonia, weeping fig, Kaffir Lily, lady of the night cactus, some sort of bushy vine, a small palm, and several spider plants. Also, Tolkien, my son, stuck two apple seeds in a cup of water two months ago, and one of them sprouted. So I planted that, too.

I was outside repotting my plants when I discovered I was short on pots. My bigger pots contained a few herbs, which was my sad little attempt to regrow my garden, and I had to make a decision: Do I go to the store and buy new pots, or do I actually plant my scant collection of herbs in the ground? After a brief deliberation, I decided to give my lavender, lemon balm, primrose, and rosemary a permanent home at my new place.

Tolkien and I worked together to dig out some proper beds in the little space I had available. At one point, he asked if he could dig a bed of his own. I pointed out a space in the yard that could be all his. I pointed to one of my gardening implements and said, “You can use that digging thingy there.” Indigo, Tolkien’s twin brother, asked nonchalantly, “You mean the trowel?” My heart sang and I replied, “Yes, Indigo. Thank you. Tolkien, you can use the trowel to dig your own plot.”

So the boys and I worked happily through the afternoon, in the sunshine, digging in the dirt. Tolkien and Indigo carved up earthworms and weeds while I dug down deep to nest my plants in their new home.

After a while, the boys announced they were hungry. I set them to task on heating up their own dinner and I finished up outside, sweeping and organizing and tending and cleaning. I went inside around nightfall, completely spent. Exhausted. And, oddly, completely at peace for the first time in days.

It feels good to put down roots.

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GLORIA HARRISON is a writer whose work has been featured on The Nervous Breakdown, Fictionaut, and This American Life. Gloria was the lead editor for The Portland Red Guide: Sites & Stories of Our Radical Past by Michael Munk, which was published through Ooligan Press in 2007. She was also a contributing editor to Pete Anthony's book, Immaculate, for which she received a high five and a ten dollar gift card to Stumptown Coffee. Gloria graduated from Portland State University with her B.A. in English in 2006 and now focuses on her own writing. She had a work of flash fiction published in The Bear Deluxe Magazine (No. 26). You can follow her on Twitter here.

Gloria lives in Portland, Oregon with her school-age twin boys. She is currently working on both a memoir and her first novel. You can contact Gloria via her Facebook page.

96 responses to “Digging in the Dirt”

  1. Laura says:

    One of my favorite quotes:

    “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” ~ Ghandi

    Gardening in small plots of earth, wherever I lived after my divorce, is truly what got me through many years of struggle. Now, I make my living turning other people’s plots of earth into beautiful gardens.
    Gardening is the epitome of nurturing. Nurture the earth, nurture yourself and all that good stuff. I’ve also found that there is alot of forgiveness and intuition in gardening.

    I look forward to seeing and hearing about how your gardens evolve! Thanks for sharing this lovely little piece. It is full of many pleasant visuals!

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Thanks, Laura. I love the Ghandi quote. It’s right on. It’s so easy to get caught up in city living – all the asphalt jungle stuff. Gardening helps.

  2. Richard Cox says:

    I really love this line, “The thing I miss most about the life I left behind is my herb garden, which I’d grown and tended and nurtured and loved until it was a flourishing Eden of smells. Rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, calendula, sage, lavender, oregano, mint.”

    It makes me want to grow my own herbs. Can one grow enough to actually use them for cooking? Or are they there to make the house smell nice?

    Must have been great for Indigo to know a word you didn’t expect them to know. The little guys grow up fast. 🙂

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      You can absolutely grow herbs for cooking. That’s what they’re for! You can also cut them and put them in your home just for smell and show. I highly encourage it. It feels great.

      • Richard Cox says:

        What I mean is can you grow enough to use them all the time? Or just for special occasions, and the rest of time you get them at the store? Do you only harvest them once a year?

        I guess I ought to climb into teh Innertubes and start looking.

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          Oh yes. Absolutely. It takes a while for some plants to get established. I tended my garden in my marriage home for six or seven summers. Over time, it all grew into lush, fully bushes. Some of the herbs – especially the mint and the lemon balm (see also fever few and chamomile) will grow so much that you’ll wish it would slow down. But even the first year you’ll get plenty of herbs by summer’s end – just plant in the spring. Now is the perfect time to start. Some herbs, like basil, are annuals – so you’ll need to have a separate space for these types. And Tawni’s right: there’s nothing better than making sauces dishes from herbs you grew yourself. And it can be so simple. Roast some potatoes (which you can grow yourself) with some olive oil and throw a few sprigs of fresh rosemary on top. Simple and delicious.

        • Tawni says:

          You can grow some herbs to use all of the time. If you have a window with good lighting, you can keep potted herbs that are good for cooking inside your home year-round. Just like you’d keep house plants. Except you can pull leaves off these house plants and make food taste better with them. Yay!

          Basil gets huge and keeps growing even after you harvest some of the leaves for food. It never seems to hurt the plant at all. Same with oregano, lemon balm, sage, thyme and rosemary, in my experience. I grew cilantro last year, but it didn’t come back after I harvested it once, which annoyed me and thwarted my summer dreams of fresh salsa made with my own cilantro, tomatoes and peppers. So I can’t vouch for cilantro.

          Another fun thing about herbs is that there are so many cool varieties. There is a chocolate mint, for example, that actually smells like chocolate. Orange, pineapple, and ginger mint too. Greek, Italian, and Golden Oregano. Purple Sage. (You have to sing Jimi Hendrix when you see that one, replacing the words “Purple Haze” with “Purple Sage.” It’s the law.)

          Some of them are perennials, which means they come back every spring, but some are annuals, which means you have to re-plant them again every year (unless you take them inside during the winter). There are some perennials that will go crazy in your yard and not only come back every spring, but multiply. Mint is like that, for example, so if you like mint juleps or mojitos, plant some mint in your yard.

          Lowe’s and Home Depot usually have a good selection here in Tulsa, and if you want to drive, I’ve found Sanders Nursery to be pretty cool too. (http://www.sandersnurseryok.com/ba-location.html)

          Gloria is right on about the rosemary and olive oil roasted potatoes. My husband makes those and they are amazing. (:

        • Richard Cox says:

          You guys have sold me. In an hour or so I’m off to Home Depot to give it a shot. Maybe the next time I play golf at White Hawk I’ll stop at Sanders on the way home.

          I use sage and thyme and basil all the time. I love rosemary chicken. So that’s a start. Also I wouldn’t mind growing the mint for the fragrance.

          Should I get a pot for each? I don’t think I have an appropriate outside place. My back yard is cut into a hillside. I’ve got a two-tiered tie wall that has what amounts to a flowerbed on its first tier. But there’s only clay soil in it and whenever it rains hard, the ensuing waterfall washes most everything out. I got a few bluebonnets to grow in it once, but mostly it turns to weeds in the summer. Even if I filled it with sandy loam, I’m not sure anything I planted there would survive a torrential downpour.

          Thoughts?

        • Richard Cox says:

          I do have space available in the front flowerbeds, but what would that look like? And how much maintenance are we talking? I’m lazy when it comes to yard work.

        • Cheryl says:

          We have 2 gargantuan rosemary bushes at our house (they were here when we got here). Rosemary does really really well here. Rosemary is an evergreen, and it is a perennial. And it is delicious. I could cook with fresh rosemary every frickin day and never run out. You just snip off a sprig, and presto! It just grows back! You can snip off bunch of sprigs and bundle them and hang them to dry, then immerse them in olive oil and let that sit for awhile and you have rosemary infused olive oil. Snip some sprigs and put them in a small cup of water anywhere in the house and you’ll smell them. Rosemary and olive oil roasted potatoes are indeed delicious – just don’t forget the garlic.

          Another fave – take two cornish game hens, slather with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, stuff the insides with a couple of garlic cloves, the lemon slices you used for the lemon juice and a bunch of sprigs of rosemary. Tie the legs shut (dirty hens), and surround them with cut potatoes, carrots and shallots. Season the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Then sprinkle fresh rosemary generously over the whole thing. I like to lay another sprig of rosemary across the birds, because it’s purty, and because I have a lot of rosemary. Roast at 350 for about 40 minutes, check for doneness, and enjoy.

        • Cheryl says:

          Oh, rosemary at least is maintenance free, drought tolerant, and very easy to grow in our climate. Seriously, I do NOTHING to our two plants and they are huge. You can also renovate that top tier flower bed by sreading a few inches of gravel on or near the bottom, and then filling up with good soil. If Sanders is a nursery, that’s a good place to start for advice on what does well in your area.

          I don’t have much experience with other herbs (yet), but the rosemary bush is a good start.

        • Tawni says:

          Eeeek! I’m not sure they have herbs in at Home Depot yet! I’m sorry… I should have mentioned that. I hope you needed other things if you have already gone there. I only saw a few early vegetables the last time I was at Lowe’s (about a week ago). If you’re planting outside here in Oklahoma, I would wait until after Easter, maybe even an additional week (since Easter is early this year), or one of our freaky spring snowstorms might kill your new baby plants.

          I have all clay too. It sucks. I have to dig a hole in it and replace the clay with potting or garden soil to plant anything. I buy bags and bags of dirt. (I find that so annoying. Buying dirt.) This is my first time dealing with clay. I had glorious, rich, well-drained soil everywhere I lived in Kansas.

          Your backyard two-tiered tie wall sounds like a perfect place for herbs to me, if they’d get at least six hours of full sun a day there. Amend the stupid clay soil and maybe mulch on top of whatever you plant to try to prevent to soil erosion every time it rains. Or just get a pot for each and grow them inside, if this is turning into a major ordeal. I kind of like major landscaping ordeals, but I’m weird that way, as you know. (:

        • Richard Cox says:

          I didn’t go yet, so thanks, Tawni. I’m pretty concerned about the erosion, though. Cheryl, you mentioned putting down gravel and then soil on top of that. The thing is, the hill above is steep and even though it’s grown in with bushes and wildflowers in the spring, because of the clay soil, the water still rushes down the hill like waterfall. The tie wall is also about fifty feet long, and the width of the “flowerbed” is about, oh, three feet. So that’s a lot of dirt and gravel. Maybe I’ll start with a short section and see if it works. I’ve spread wildflower seeds over it and even those barely grow. I end up with so many weeds that I just mow them down with the weedeater (as I said I’m very lazy with the gardening). But I’d like to try something else this year, so thanks you guys for the ideas.

          Cheryl, that recipe sounds delicious. Thank you. Now I’m hungry.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Ok, well I picked out a spot about 15 feet long and cleared out the leaves and junk and most of the weeds. I have an idea to embed bricks as you see here, except dig them in about halfway so they maybe will help hold the soil. What do you guys think? Enough space? I could also buy some sandy loam or whatever to spread over the top. I just don’t want to do the whole area at first in case it’s a failure. And this section I can see out my windows, which would look better than the mowed weeds I usually get to look at.

          As you can see from the first picture, it’s a straight shot down the hill to the flowerbed area. But maybe this would help?

          http://i150.photobucket.com/albums/s102/coxric/tiewall1.jpg

          http://i150.photobucket.com/albums/s102/coxric/tiewall2.jpg

          http://i150.photobucket.com/albums/s102/coxric/tiewall3.jpg

        • Laura says:

          Richard, Those are beautiful beds! Looks like a perfect place to plant anything. Put some compost in there…and plant away. Sorry for butting in, I just had to comment on those photos!

        • Gloria says:

          Oh, Richard – I agree! Those beds are the perfect places for your new herb garden. In September, you’ll be looking out your window and you’ll be thanking yourself for doing this. Next summer, even more so. I’m so excited for you!!

        • Tawni says:

          Wow, Richard. I looked at the pictures and think you have an awesome place to plant. I covet. I think that as long as you amend the clay so that it is more absorbent soil (which you would have to do to get anything to grow in it anyhow), it will soak up more rain and hopefully solve some of your erosion issues. Cheryl’s flowerbed French drain idea would be some work, but I would be an excellent way to help soak up extra water as well.

          The professionals at the nurseries here always tell me to buy gypsum to mix with the clay to amend it, but as I mentioned before, I just replace it all. I’ve never tried the gypsum. I wonder if a layer of that on top might help prevent your soil from being washed away? You might ask somebody at the nursery when you buy your herbs.

          I just remembered another really good nursery at 91st and Lewis that I used to go to, back when I lived around the 51st and Lewis area (where my car was stolen from my driveway). They always had an amazing selection of herbs there, if you’re ever in the area. Teh linky: http://www.southwoodnursery.com/index.shtml

          I’m all excited for you and whatnot. (:

        • Tawni says:

          Replace “I” with “it” at the end of the first paragraph. I would not be an excellent way to help soak up extra water. Extra beer, maybe…

        • Richard Cox says:

          When you go back and read that paragraph with knowledge of the typo it is laugh-out-loud funny. Nice work, Tawni’s keyboard.

        • Gloria says:

          Yes, that slip of the finger was hilarious.

    • Tawni says:

      There is nothing better than a nice pasta tossed with fresh herbs you’ve grown yourself and some olive oil. You won’t find anything like it in a jar. Is goooooood.

    • Reno J. Romero says:

      i second richard. great line. perfect. funny and, well, natural. this was a great read. and I AGREE with your observations on how folk treat you at certain times. weird replies, strange screwed up faces. anyhow…

      thanks, gloria. i love the tone of this piece. wait! hope this house soon feels like a home. okay, i’m done. have a great week.

      cheers,
      reno romero

      • Gloria says:

        Thanks, Reno. You have a great week, too. 😀 I really want to go over and read your piece. I understand there’s nudity involved?

  3. tammallen says:

    I’m dreaming of my own place.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      My advice: go grab some herbs and put them in containers. That way, when you’re in your new place, you’ll have something ready to go into the ground. It’s quite satisfying.

  4. Quenby Moone says:

    There’s nothing as therapeutic as being in the garden, even just puttering. Sometimes I realize I just stand and stare at one spot, meditating on what should be moved, what should be divided, where I’m going to find room for one more plant. It’s a zen sort of state. I love being in the garden.

    It, like everything else, is always at risk of being subsumed in the work of living day to day, but dammit if it isn’t one of the most important things to give ourselves.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      There’s something about having dirt on your hands. And on your face. And on your jeans. And feeling exhausted after a day of hard work out in the garden. It makes the day to day worthwhile.

  5. Tawni says:

    Oh, I love this one. Plant talk! YES.

    Digging in the dirt is my number one way to find balance and center myself. Being immersed in nature is always soothing (which is why camping also rocks). And focusing on the task of nurturing something to grow keeps my mind trained on only one thing for a little while. There is no better therapy than planting things.

    I am glad you feel at home enough in your new place to put down some roots and commit to a garden. And I’m so happy you feel better.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      You know, the way I figured it is that even if I end up moving from this place any time soon (god forbid), I can just dig the plants up and take them with me or start over with new plants. One thing that seemed to be holding me back was this idea that I had to be in one place forever before I could start. I just like the metaphor of putting roots down – no matter where my couch is located.

      • Cheryl says:

        If you can’t or don’t want to dig them up to take them with you, it might be really cool to leave them for the next person. Of course, you would hope they would appreciate the gift and keep the garden going…

        • Tawni says:

          I love the idea of always leaving a place better than you found it. I have planted so many bulbs for future apartment dwellers to enjoy. (Here, have some spring tulips every year, friends!) It’s really cool to drive past places you once lived and see the flowers you planted years ago still growing there. I wish more people would have the foresight to plant fruit trees for this reason. How cool is it to move into a place and realize you have FREE FRUIT?

        • Gloria says:

          I try not to look at my old gardens when I have the occasion to go to my ex-husband’s house. He’s a capable gardener himself, but our, uh…visions of everything are often quite different, and I just don’t want to know if he’s ripped something out. It’s hard not to get emotionally attached to these things. And yes, fruit trees are great. I agree.

        • Tawni says:

          I used to drive by an ex’s house just to see how my flowers were doing. He left them alone and they were thriving. Same for me. 😉

      • anon says:

        That metaphor was such a satisfying way to close the essay, really, really wonderful, Gloria. Thanks for the peaceful, thoughtful read.

        Honestly, between you and Molly’s owlets, this is turning into a perfect Sunday!

        • Carol Hiller says:

          anon? oh yeah, that was a leftover from another place. Hi Gloria! It’s me!

        • Gloria says:

          Ha ha ha ha. Hi Carol.

          I was so excited to read about the owlets this morning. Are they cute? Are they fuzzy? Are they noisy?? So jealous. 😀

          And the final line was a gift from an editor who went above and beyond the call of duty helping my exhausted mind put this piece together. He’s kind of a genius.

  6. Nanea says:

    This inspires me even though I tend to kill every living thing I try to plant. Even cacti. Playing in the dirt sounds like great fun.

    Also, I love it when someone is brave enough to say that everything is NOT going well, and that yes, sometimes you do, in fact, feel shitty about it. Things grow out of shit, right?

  7. Greg Olear says:

    Although I am not in any way a gardening type of person — that’s my wife’s department — there is something undeniably magical about planting a seed and watching it grow. This is one of the themes in WALL-E, which we have been watching almost nonstop lately, and which is on in the other room as I type this.

    “You put a seed in the ground,” the captain says excitedly, as if he can’t believe it, “and you can grow things to eat! Like pizza!”

    The end credits — after the ship returns to Earth and they have to clean up the mess — are amazing. Plus, Peter Gabriel sings the song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6wgicmUAfw

    I’m glad to hear you have started growing things again.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Ha!! Toy Story was my Wall-E. And then, later, it was The Iron Giant that was on auto-repeat. I feel your pain, my friend.

      The pizza line is consistently funny. I love that captain. And yes, the end credits are beautiful.

      Ah, Peter Gabriel. How I love him. I have this thing for sexy old men. Old musicians (Peter Gabriel, David Byrne…) are followed closely by old scientists (Jeff Goldblume in anything).

      Thanks for the encouragement, Greg. As always.

      • at the pub quiz I participate in there’s a ‘Jef Goldblum Rule.’

        Basically, you get two ‘Goldblums’ where if you can’t answer a question you write ‘Jeff Goldblum’ and you get a point for it.

        If you could grow pizza I’d be interested in gardening. My parents are obsessed with gardening, which perhaps weirdly as put me off it…

        • Gloria says:

          I shall plant you a sandwich garden. But none with that nasty Pickle garbage you people eat over there. Mostly cheese sandwiches. I might also grow you some tuna melts. I’ll see if I can get some chips seeds, too.

        • Gloria says:

          And by “chips” I mean french fries.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          A sandwich garden sounds like the greatest dream come true…

          I can’t remember the last time I ate pickle… Baxters Tomato Chutney is even better than pickle and has long been the main sauce in my summer sandwiches that accompany Magnum, PI marathons…

          chips… fries… potato based snacks… it’s all good. God I’m hungry now…

    • Richard Cox says:

      WALL-E is fantastic. It’s the film that sold me on getting a Blu Ray player. Not only does the film look stupendously good, the story is one of my favorites among modern animated movies.

      • Greg Olear says:

        I continue to love WALL-E and Toy Story, which we have watched even more frequently. The idea of a toy slowly realizing he’s a toy…just gives-me-chills brilliant. Shrek is also great, as is The Incredibles, which the kids have not yet seen, but I think that’s next on the list.

  8. Slade Ham says:

    I like the way you casually slipped “exorcism” into the list of recent trials. I shall not ask.

    Gardening to me always sounds so peaceful. Growing things, the dirt, the distraction. It always ends up being a much better ideal though, than actual endeavor. Gardening and running. Wonderful concepts that work well for everyone but me.

    I’m glad that your new space is slowly becoming your own.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      The exorcism is as much its own story as the rest. I guess my point is that we all have our shit going on – and being able to get on top of it (instead of the other way around) can be a son of a bitch sometimes.

      I love the running metaphor. Sadly, I can’t run. Well…not literally. I was in a car accident half my life ago and my leg was crushed. I have a crooked foot. I run kind of like the zombies in MJ’s “Thriller” video dance.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Hahahahahahaha. I am laughing out loud at your comparison, and if that makes me a horrible person I’ll just have to learn to live with it 🙂

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          It’s pretty hysterical, actually. I mean – I could run. Technically. Like, if I were being chased or something.

  9. Matt says:

    No place really begins to feel like home until you’ve started making it your own. Whatever, however you have to.

    My ex left her hanging planter boxes out on the balcony when she left. For over a year they’ve just been sitting there, the plants long dead (which they were before she even started packing). I’m going to plant some wildflowers in them, just to see how that works out.

    • Gloria says:

      Wildflower mixes grow pretty tall – just be warned of that. However, I love this idea. Love it, love it! Do it, Matt! 🙂

  10. Cheryl says:

    As I was reading your post, I was imagining standing in the herb garden of your marriage home, and I could almost smell it. We started a garden last year – a couple of raised beds, planted some veggies. Last year we had a viciously dry and hot summer, so we didn’t get to eat as much as we’d hoped 🙁

    Lots of rain and milder temps this year, though, so we added a bed, and I’ve been slowly filling it up with seedlings and seeds.

    We don’t really know what we’re doing, so that is half the fun. Raised beds are a little trickier, especially in the wallet department. There’s nothing sillier than buying dirt, at least in the quantities we buy it. But considering our “soil” is about 1/2″ of dirt on top of about 20′ of solid limestone, there’s not much to plant on or nurture. Apparently, the Texas Hill Country used to be an inland sea, so we’re always finding fossilized shells, especially clams, on our property, so that’s kind of cool. Heh… clams.

    It is so nice to just get out and dig in the dirt. Sometimes I stress about it (did I put this in the right place? Did I plant these far enough apart?) But when I come inside I always feel a sense of peace and a sense of accomplishment far greater than any I have ever experienced at my job.

    • Gloria says:

      I remember the awful dirt down that way. The first summer I lived with my ex-husband in Albuquerque we built a garden together. That ground was hard as concrete. That was a lot of work. But so satisfying.

      Clams…heh.

      Yes, you learn to garden as you go along. Sometimes it takes killing a bunch of stuff year after year before you get it right. Kind of like life.

      • Cheryl says:

        Yeah, I think I’m on that learning plan. And yes it is kind of like life – trial and error. And sometimes you can tend all you want but elements out of your control are just going to fuck it up anyway. **Shakes fist at sky at the unfairness of it all**

  11. Simon Smithson says:

    Spider plants???

  12. Becky says:

    I have a green thumb, I think. I have kept a tropical flowering tree alive in MN for over 7 years. But I tend not to use that thumb for much else. Next weekend is to be the beginning of changing that. I’m thinking basic, easy stuff. Tomatoes, maybe some cukes. See if this digit is the real deal.

    • Gloria says:

      Yes, tomatoes are a great place to start. They’re practically indestructible. Cucumbers are also good. Any vine plant is a good place to start. Just make sure you have lots of space. I also recommend getting some herbs – rosemary or lavendar or mint. Also hard to kill, and they’re perennials so you only have to plant them once. Also, they look pretty.

  13. Carrie says:

    I think I’m a few steps behind you, Gloria. My greatest satisfaction has come from ripping out weeds and viciously pruning trees and roses. Maybe this is the year I will get back to growing and nurturing.

  14. Erica says:

    Oh, Glory. Thanks for reminding me about the little things that hold every big thing together…like digging in dirt. Beautiful.

  15. I love gardens. You see all the photos I post on Facebook. It’s usually because I am sticking my nose into a neighborhood garden.

    One day I will have a home and plant one and not just stare at everyone else’s… In the meantime, your post reminds me of how I would love to pass by and say, “Oh that’s pretty” and snap a photo…

  16. angela says:

    i’ve never gardened before, but your piece makes me want to!

    i remember my grandfather growing his own patch of winter melons in a random spot in our backyard. he’d water them every day in the summer, wearing the same baseball cap and pants pulled up to his armpits, and i remember being very surprised that they grew.

    your garden, planting with your boys, and your boys are all just lovely.

  17. Simon Smithson says:

    Oh, I see! Do spiders like to live in them?

    • Gloria says:

      LOL. That’s right. You’re fairly anti-spider, aren’t you? No, spiders don’t live in them. Well not any more so than any other plant.

      • Simone says:

        Did you know that symbolically, spiders are associated with creative writing?

        I’ll see if I can get a link for you.

  18. Sarah says:

    I prefer to experience plants/greenery on a more macro scale. When my ex and I bought our house it was almost a full acre of overgrown jungle almost right up to the house. Chainsaws, wheelbarrows, heavy work gloves, stump killer, tools that required gas, etc. Then turf builder, grass seed, watering and maintenance. Ah, that’s how we made it our home. We cleared out someone else’s life and planted our own.

    Now the kids and I are in a temporary home, back in my home town staying in my grandmother’s vacant condo for six months while I regroup my life and save up some money. I’ve moved in all my stuff but this is still my grandmother’s home, though she’s been in a nursing home for over a year. Many of her things are still here – trinkets from her years of world traveling, mementos of my late grandfather, even her smells are still here thanks to a few bottles of Chanel No. 5 scattered around that I haven’t wanted to throw out. But I know that for my children’s sake I have to make this as much *our* home as I can. All I needed to do was help Xavier hang his Pokemon posters on his walls and cover his bed with his stuffed animals and he was home. For me, a few school reminders and the lunch menu on the fridge did the trick. I suppose I’m trying to put down roots that can carefully be transplanted to more permanent soil soon.

    This was wonderful writing, as always, Gloria. I’m glad you’re finally feeling home. And speaking only for myself, I’m suspicious of anyone who appears to have his/her shit together all the time. It’s just not human.

    • Gloria says:

      Excellent. Then I am extremely proficient at being human by your definition. 😉

      I love the descriptions of what you hung to make your temporary house feel more like it’s really yours. We, too, have Pokemon posters on the wall and school stuff on the fridge.

  19. Irene Zion says:

    Gloria,
    How beautifully metaphoric to put down roots in order to put down roots.
    I loved working the garden with my kids.
    My only child with children does the same thing.
    Each child has his and her own area to grow things and experiment.
    It’s a wonderful thing to experience together.
    I believe you have your home now.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks, Irene. I believe I do too. I’m glad to hear that your grandchildren get to experience growing stuff. It’s practical on so many levels.

  20. Irene Zion says:

    It’s not only family time, but the kids really learn a great deal with this exercise.
    It’s quite amazing, actually.

  21. Judy Prince says:

    Wonderful, fresh-feeling essay, Gloria. As do other readers, I love “Eden of smells”.

    I’ve inherited rosemary bushes, daffodils, crocuses, even one tall corn plant in the front yard, from the wonderful previous occupants in this little home I’m renting. Before I moved in, I’d come over every day just to be here and breathe in the rosemary smell and feel peaceful as I stared at all the greenery. In the home I sold before that I put fish guts in dug holes and then planted lotsa fruiting bushes, trees and vines—every one of them edibles. Dunno if the fish guts helped, but putting them in the holes made me feel good.

    BTW, I’ve also tremendously enjoyed playing in a sandbox with my son, and years later with my twin grandsons, just digging, talking, pretending, creating, and sitting in the sand—total fun!

    You’ve given a marvelous continuing joy and lifelong memories to your boys, Gloria.

    And to Cheryl—can’t wait to roast those rosemary/garlic/lemon/olive oil Cornish hens! You speak to my tummy, gurl!

    • Cheryl says:

      I love the smell of rosemary. Yum! Ours is blooming right now and when I get home from work I can smell it and hear the bees before I round the bend and see it. The bees make me happy. There was a wild hive of bees in the trunk of a fallen oak on our property when we first moved in. There were so many bees! When our Texas sage and rosemary bloomed, they were everywhere! Last year they disappeared – I don’t know if the dreaded colony collapse disorder got them or if they just moved on. It was a very silent spring and summer last year, without our friends. This year I am relieved to see more bees. I really missed them. I had to hand pollinate our zucchini last year; not very romantic for the flowers, I’m afraid.

      I hope you enjoy the recipe! I love the smell of it cooking almost as much as I love the taste. It gets big props from the husband and kid too.

    • Gloria says:

      Fish guts? Hm… Now I’m curious; I’ll have to look it up. I couldn’t agree with you more about the smell of rosemary. I feel the same way about lavendar and mint. Mmmm…

      Yes, Cheryl’s recipe sounds outstanding.

  22. Simone says:

    Gloria, you remind me of my mother. She was always in the garden planting rose bushes, marigolds, bougainvillieas, lillies and the like. Flowers were her forte. Every spring & summer she’d be outside composing a melody of colours with each plant, flower or tree that she planted.

    I must say that it was soothing for her soul, she always seemed calmer and more chilled from a day of working in the dirt.

    Great piece. Are Tolkein and Indigo really your kid’s names? If so, they’re beautiful names.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks, Simone. Normally I would bristle at the line, “you remind me of my mother” but..well…shit…I mean, I am about to be a grandma. 😉

      Yes, the boys are really named Tolkien and Indigo. They’re strange little humans, so the names fit. I like ’em.

      • Simone says:

        Gloria, please don’t take offense to the “you remind me of my mother” line, it’s compliment. My mother was young (45) when she passed away, so I’ll never see her as being old. Just an awesome lady who could create gold with her hands – either with sewing, cooking or gardening.

        You, a gramdma? You say that like it’s a bad thing. It’s awesome!! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the role, and have some unexpected fun in doing so.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          My mom loves gardening also, so I hope I’m not adding insult to injury by saying as much. She was raised on a farm (about which I wrote a little recently at TNB) where she toiled in the garden, but I think came to really enjoy it after she split with my dad.

          By the way, I was charmed by the photo I saw of your daughter and son-in-law on FB, Gloria, and I later realized that your daughter appeared to be writing a paper-plate valentine on your copy of my book. I was also charmed by your photo of her valentine and her husband’s, side by side.

        • Gloria says:

          @Simone – I actually wasn’t offended. 😉 I was just taking another opportunity to mention that I’m going to be a grandma. Baby Logan and I are racing toward April 18, which is my birthday. Which will happen first? The birth of my grandson or my 34th birthday? It’s a strange idea to wrap my mind around, but as the time draws closer, I get more and more excited. I’m going to have a grandson!

          @Duke – you are not insulting me, sir. Thanks for your nice comments about my FB pictures. Yes, Sierra was writing on her heart on top of Banned For Life. And yes, the hearts that she and Patrick produced were charming. That’s a great word for it. Those nutty kids sure love each other. Here’s to love!

  23. Gloria– I once lived in a home where I found a hand drawn garden plan — quite old — quite elaborate — shoved in the back of a drawer in the pantry. The yard I inherited looked nothing like the plan. Years of neglect had colored outside the lines the best intentions of this long ago gardener and frankly — with a newborn and a four year old the thought of trying to make it right overwhelmed me. One day — not too long after we moved in– the doorbell rang. It was three of the six sisters and two brothers who had grown up in the house. After they introduced themselves I invited them in and trailed them from room to room as they shared their memories. When we climbed the stairs to a tiny room that was tucked in the eaves– one of the women turned to me and said: “This was our mothers’ sewing room. It was the last place I ever saw her alive.” While her sisters’ left the room quickly, the woman who had said this confided that her mother had died swiftly of pancreatic cancer — a month after the diagnosis — but that she didn’t want her children to know she was sick for fear they wouldn’t go on with their lives– by then these three girls had been away at college and there were five siblings left at home elementary to high school age. In that moment — clutching my newborn and watching my four year old skip down the staircase I remembered the garden plan and concluded that it had to have been written by their mother. When I gave it to them they exclaimed that it was one of a few things they had left of their mother’s since it seemed their father remarried shortly after his wife’s death and her things were either donated or destroyed in the haste of starting a new life.
    Not knowing what else to do I offered that along with the plan — if they wanted – they could take something from the garden. I recognized the old rose bushes so at least that I knew was something they could actually have. I was surprised then how little encouragement I had to give them to go out and dig up their mother’s garden– but they each left with a rose bush that day. I never heard from them again. And while I would like to say that I restored that garden to its glory- the best I did was clean it and plant some veggies and annuals with my own girls’ as they grew older– two little willing garden helpers who always wanted to play in the dirt. I’m sorry that you no longer have your beautiful garden– but no matter where you make that new garden with your boys’ they will surely hold onto that memory.

    • Cheryl says:

      Robin, I love this story. And I love that you let them dig the rosebushes from their mother’s garden. What a beautiful living memory you gave them!

    • Gloria says:

      Robin, I have waited all day to respond to this. I read it first thing this morning when I got to work. I can’t really check into TNB much from work.

      Anyway…

      This gorgeous and kind. You are lovely. I love this story so, so much. It almost begs for a post of its own. Not only did you give those children a memory to take with them, but you made one for yourself. I’ll bet that mom had no idea when she drew those plans that some day this is what would come of them. I’m sure your backyard is just perfect the way it is.

      Thank you for this response. It brought tears to my eyes. I will never forget this.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Oh yes, Cheryl and Gloria—Robin’s story is so poignant!

        I’ve so appreciated Gloria’s “Digging in The Dirt” story and all the readers’ comments.

        This week I’ve been netflix-streaming “All Creatures Great And Small” which, too, returns us to the earth, the animals, and people’s connections with them and with one another. I believe that we are finding, and will find more ways, to satisfy these deepest needs of ours. We are now best ready to launch ourselves, person by person and family by family, into environments that yield the joys, beauties, and peace of mind given and sustained by the natural world.

      • Gloria– I have found that on the days that seem most ordinary something extraordinary occurs– especially in the quiet. ~ robin

  24. New Orleans Lady says:

    I know I already congratulated you on your new home but I thought I would do it again.
    Congratulations!

    I’ve read this piece 4 times and I’m finally finding the time to comment. (Sorry about that.)

    All of this garden talk is making me want to plant something, get dirty, and eat. At least I know where I can turn when I need some herb advice. 😉

  25. KaMarlowete says:

    You’re an easy person to be proud of, Gloria.

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