My Garden: As It Was, Is, And May Be

“I never had any other desire so strong, and so like covetousness, as that…I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life to the culture of them and the study of nature.” – Abraham Cowley


A few days ago, I tossed out a quote and a question in a post titled “Show Me Your Garden“. I received many thoughtful comments, that made me think all the harder about how I would answer the same question.

I thank you for your answers which were as varied as the plants in your gardens:

* every plant reflects a desire to learn more, to grow as a gardener, and to find a place of peace…
* A perfectionist in some areas of my life, and a ‘oh well, what ever’ in other areas whimsical and cluttered. Exactly who I am…
* I consider my garden a work in progress, as I am a work in progress, too
* …a canvas upon which I can paint, and parts more like a sketch book in which I work out small riddles…
* inspired by the natural world and recreating a reflection of it in our garden
* My garden is me: I’m not prejudice, I love all sorts, and they can be crowded yet live happily side by side without any tension or cattiness. It’s a blissful place.
* my greatest wish is for a totally private garden that no one can see from the outside
* Maybe that is a bit reflective of me at this stage in my life – calmer, more understated
* I think probably my garden style reflects what I am not. That is; calm.
* a space that is my sanctuary, a place I feel safe and able to reflect and introvert, a place were I find it much easier to empty my mind and just be…
* always trying to keep it organized and simple, but giving in to it’s wild and wonderful ways.
* I know (at some level) the garden is a reflection of myself – but as it is work in progress I am not sure what scruffy shrubs and old stones walls says about me…

That is a small sampling of the comments you so generously left. Whether you were aware of it at the time of writing or not, I think all the remarks reveal something about the author. Most of all, I believe your honest passion shone through as clearly and as brightly as your April blooms.

My garden changed dramatically when, through separation and divorce, I moved from a large house and property into a much smaller apartment. That was almost ten years ago and this apartment still feels like “I’ve never unpacked my suitcase”, if that makes sense. If I lived here another twenty years, it would never feel like home. That’s the Reader’s Digest version of how I got from there to here, so I thought the easiest way to explain my own garden reflections is to approach it from what it was, what it is, and what it may become.

As It Was

This is an aerial view of my former property as taken by my daughter from a Dept of Natural Resources helicopter. The property outlined in red was mine; the yellow is my parents’ home; the lime green dots indicate a well-worn path that led to the beach and lighthouse; the aqua dots outline a pond feature; the orange dots mark where a large, in-ground swimming pool was located…that my ex promptly filled in shortly after we separated.

So, as you can see, the property had huge potential, and I had huge dreams. The acreage was a horse pasture before we built on it, and we mowed all 4.5 acres. I had already started landscaping the area around the pond to create a “serenity garden”, but you can’t see that from the distant, aerial photo. I had also done a fair bit of work inside and outside the round-topped fence that enclosed the pool.

This is the house. We lived there together for nine years; my daughters grew up here. We owned another house just below my parents for several years, but this was my dream home.

What does this property that was reflect about my personality? That I love water, having lived at the ocean’s edge my entire life…that I crave space…that I’m a dreamer, whether or not my plans ever came to fruition…that I sought serenity. That I was hopelessly naive.

As It Is

My garden space now consists of an 8′ x 4′ balcony. That’s quite a downsize from four and a half acres! I’ve managed, by using a variety of containers and annuals, to create some bright splashes of color in summers past. I’ve gathered some brilliant ideas from reading the blogs here on Blotanical and hope to incorporate many of them to take advantage of every square inch of gardening space.


So, my garden that is consists of containers of fluorescent-colored annuals, as much as possible. And the metaphor fits perfectly — I feel contained and constrained in this apartment. I long for the day when I can return to a house with lots of room for gardening. I’m sure the brazenly bright colors reflect my weariness with the beige that is this apartment. As my garden has been downsized, so has my life. Both have become much smaller and enclosed. I’m like a garden butterfly, ready to break free of my chrysalis and emerge with trowel and rake in hand! Whee!

Until then, I enjoy my blooms where I find them. :-)

As It May Be

Sadly, my favorite uncle passed away unexpectedly last August. His wife, my aunt and only family on my Dad’s side, is in the early stages of Alzheimers and has been confined to a nursing home since he passed. I’ve been looking after their house, checking in on things once a week. It’s located about a fifteen minute drive from where I now live. Every childhood memory I have of holidays and summer vacations centers around this house.

Due to insurance requirements and because the house is starting to show signs of neglect from not being inhabited for almost ten months, we may be moving in. The only hurdle to this is that my aunt, bless her heart, still thinks she will be returning to it herself. Something which, unfortunately, just won’t happen.

It seems a shame that the house is unoccupied and it would remove us from an apartment into a house. It would be my pleasure to look after it for my aunt, until such time as it will become mine legally. Until we are able to move in, I am free to putter in my uncle’s neglected gardens as I wish.

What aspect of my personality would come to light by restoring this house and these gardens and injecting my own preferences into the property? I see these gardens as hope. And I am an eternally glass-half-full sort of person. But if I’m honest, I also tend to live too much in the past. I do not hang onto past wrongs or hold grudges or anything in that vein. But I do long for times past when this house — and my own — echoed with the laughter of family gatherings and little girls’ giggles. I know I can’t bring those times back, and I’ve chided myself repeatedly for hanging onto memories so tightly — how can one live in the now and move forward if your life revolves around things that happened a lifetime ago?


All Nature, My Garden

And then I remind myself that if all else fails, and even if it doesn’t, all Nature is my garden. I live in a province that offers its residents a wealth of “gardening” opportunities — from bee-filled apple orchards to highland heathers to coastal beach grass — it’s all there for the discovery. To that end, I’m soon launching a blog that will feature only native flora and scenery. All Nature, My Garden will be up and running as soon as the weather permits that first jaunt into the fields and forests, and I look forward to bringing you snippets of Nova Scotia through prose, poems, and pictures. The blog site is still under construction, but I’ll be submitting it to Blotanical when ready. Soliloquy will remain as it is; a place to post thoughts, photos, and reflections about gardening and everyday life.

Nature’s garden reveals a huge part of my personality — the part that searches for that which is real and grounded and serene. The part that believes in dreams.

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39 thoughts on “My Garden: As It Was, Is, And May Be

  1. Oh Nancy, I feel for you! Not only because of losing all that space, but also because of your aunt. We’re in a similar position here as hubby’s mum has dementia and has just gone into a home. It’s a tough decision isn’t it? Now he and his brother are slowly dismantling their family home of 50 years and it’s so sad. Neither brother will get to live in the house as it’s too far away from where any of us live.

    It looks like your aunt’s house is calling you to go and look after it. It seems like the sensible thing to do all round and that garden needs you!

    Hugs

    VP

  2. I really like your idea for your new blog and look forward to seeing what you have to share. Let us know when you get it going. It really sounds wonderful!

  3. Nancy, such a personal post, the emotion bleeds through your words. I do hope this house can become your palette to let those emotions paint the vibrant colors your apartment won’t allow.

  4. Thank you for this post, Nancy. It was exactly what I needed to read today, and it was what I needed to see too. Your words are eloquent, thoughtful and a balm for the spirit – the photos are sublime. A wonderful sharing!!!

  5. What a beautiful dream you had, it was a very nice house. I do think your aunt’s house seems to be calling your name!

    It’s hard to put a loved one in the care of others, but it IS for their own good. Sometimes I chide myself for not having had the foresight to do that with my dad when I started thinking about it. He was a proud man though, and I didn’t want to do anything that he didn’t want. I can’t help but think if I would have done something I may still have him around today.

  6. Gutsy, heartfelt, beautiful.

    Thank you for risking such a personal glimpse, for showing that it is OK, for carrying us into that inner, secret garden.

    Namasté, friend,

  7. Thank you Nancy, for sharing of yourself and your garden dreams. I sense that where you are headed will be even more beautiful than you ever expected. I look forward to your new blog with much anticipation!

  8. I have a nice garden now, and truly enjoy it. But I think back longingly on gardens I planted and had to leave behind.
    Brenda

  9. Our history, our past, makes us who we are. Remembering good times & wanting to recreate those feelings is not living in the past, but drawing upon it to create a new happiness. I hope all your garden dreams come true at your aunt’s house.

  10. Thank you for sharing this moving post. I am glad to know you as a glass half full kind of person.

  11. I love the theme of All Nature, My Garden. Whatever our circumstances, we can always connect with nature. Our natural areas are wonderful places to appreciate the diversity of native plants and animals. But gardening is also a wonderful way to connect with nature, and I also hope that you’re able to reinvigorate a garden full of childhood memories.

    This was a lovely reflection of your thoughts about what gardens mean. Thanks!

  12. Nancy, What a heartfelt post.You drew me in with revelations of personal feelings and perspective at every stage. I LOVE the aerial photo… it would be very difficult (for me anyway) to break away from those memories AND that beautiful property. It does seem as if your aunt’s home is a good transition place (for you and her)and you could really enjoy your uncle’s gardens. I do pray everything works out for you, Nancy. I applaud your glass half-full attitude in the face of it all. Your new blog sounds like a really cool thing too.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  13. Nancy,

    Many of us don’t have the courage to offer such insight into the person behind the blog. We include little tidbits here and there, but much is left to the imagination of our readers. Our images are created through words in edited sentences and paragraphs. It’s easy to forget that behind those words there is a person – someone with dreams and apprehensions who is experiencing a life just as full of ups and downs as the next person. Thank you for sharing, and as David said in an earlier comment, thank you for showing us that it’s okay to do so.

    Cathy

  14. Beautiful, poignant post Nancy. And oh, how I can relate, although I only ended up in an apartment for a year. My first marriage ended in divorce. I was the one who left, and I too lived in a balcony apartment. Ultimately when the divorce was final, I got the house back, (and my beautiful borders,) but it was too much, too big, and too expensive for me to handle on my own.

    I downsized into a smaller home with smaller gardens, but it was mine, all mine, and I just loved that place. Now remarried, I sold my beloved vintage Georgian, and moved into my husband’s home. It’s a nice home, but I still miss my Georgian and its sunny borders.
    My girls are all grown up now and on their own, and I too miss the sound of childrens’ laughter echoing through the house.

    I hope you are able to move into your relatives’ home. Your positive attitude is truly an inspiration!

  15. Dear Nancy,

    My heart hurt for you in this post. I am praying you get to live in your Aunt’s house. It is a shame for it not to be used. I can’t figure out how you lost the first house next to your parents. That must be uncomfortable for them. Having been married the first time and losing it all, I feel your pain.

    I do love the bright colors on your patio. Thank you for letting us into your life.~~Dee

  16. Nancy, that was such a deeply felt and moving post. I think I’m like you: I get attached to places, and the memory and feel of them stays with me. You seem to be blessed, too, with the ability to reside in a very present and aware Now, and that’s a gift. I love the colors on your balcony! And I think your aunt’s house is beautiful. I particularly like the approach on that shaded driveway. It looks like an ideal place to garden; it already has significance for you; your attention would only deepen its beauty. I hope you get that opportunity.

  17. Yes, that was a very personal and sad post but with moments of hope shining through. I so hope it all works out for you and please let me know when the new link is up and running.

  18. Nancy, as others have said… a wonderful, deeply personal post. And although I don’t really know you(yet), your story is becoming more clear. We are measured in life by what we do with what we are given. Your measure is high! I hope you get the garden of your dreams.

  19. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and she lived with us for three years before we had to put her in a nursing home, before that we went to her home just about every day for four years to giver her her medications and check on her well being. It is a terrible disease.

    I’m sure it must be very difficult to have your former home right beside your parents home. I hope things work out exactly the way you want them to with your uncles home.

  20. Nancy, this post was such a lovely one to read. I can certainly understand how you could miss that beautiful home and yet the hope of the future in your Aunt’s house is a wonderfully uplifting thing. You are right about the beauty that surrounds you in Nova Scotia, it’s such a stunning place, sweet, wild and kissed by the sun.

  21. Thank you for posting such a personal story. You have blessed us all with your insight into surviving loss and clinging to hope, no matter what. I’ll be praying for your life to blossom in ways you can’t even imagine yet.

  22. Nancy, I so relate to your post although I’d probably never be able to articulate it as well as you’ve done. In many ways, our lives are mirrors as I was also married, divorced and lived in a balcony apt. At last I’ve moved on, into my own little house, but it’s difficult to let go of those memories. I hope you get to garden in your Uncles house and that it’s a healing experience for you. I also look forward to your new blog.

  23. Nancy, what a beautifully honest and heartwarming post. I’m so pleased for you that you’ll be able to come almost full circle and move into your Aunt and Uncle’s home. You’ll be able to spread your wings …

    Diane

  24. What a path you’ve traveled – and the plans for the future are my favorite part of your tale. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  25. Hi Nancy
    Like some others I felt a connextion to your blog. I beleive though that everything happens for a reason although it may not be obvious at the time. I think moving into your aunt’s house and looking after it will be very theraputic for you and in her lucid moments reassure your aunt it is being looked after – best wishes

  26. I am overwhelmed by your kind and generous words. Thank you all so much for taking the time to comment.

  27. Beautiful, thoughtful and reflective. This was moving for me. Thank you.
    I look forward to your new blog!

  28. Nancy,
    I feel priviledged that you shared this deeply personal journey and I am thrilled about your new blog.
    Gail

  29. Nancy I have read your personal story and I wish you a very happy future and a big garden. I also know now that you are a very positive person and will achieve what you are wishing for. Take care.

  30. “But I do long for times past when this house — and my own — echoed with the laughter of family gatherings and little girls’ giggles”
    So beautifully expressed.
    On the house that may be…
    In gardens that I walk with people,clients,friends, the first thing I personally do is find a place for the bench;that special place to commune unobserved and let the mind wander…and yet critically observe.Reflections of what can be. Vistas to be explored and defined, not only in the garden but in the heart.
    It is a common adage that one must live in a garden for the compliment of twelve full moons until one knows about a garden; where it is sunny in spring, what bulbs may come up…and gosh that tree really needs pruning, until you see in Summer the delicious shade it provides. Best wishes to you and your family. I love what you do.

  31. Nancy, Thanks for sharing about this part of your life and about your new blog. I will look forward to checking in with both! I hope this dream of living at your aunt’s and gardening there comes true soon!
    Carol
    terranovadesign.blogspot.com

  32. Oh my. That’s probably the hardest post I’ve ever read. It’s because you were in the room with me as I read it. I have an absorbing type personality. I felt that. It made me shudder and I didn’t just cry Nancy–I wept. I wept because you reached a turning point. You are finally saying goodbye and have hope. Gosh I feel so badly for what you gave up and they have left such scars but you have real healing power.

    One story related to me I lean on heavily during times of change–goes like this:
    I met a woman once who had lost her child in a awful auto accident. She said If I had known then what I know now–I would never had made the same decisions. She forever carried the guilt that she changed fate and caused the death of her child. She fought change and went against the tide to end up in such sorrow she could hardly bear.

    I was meant to hear that cause I always resented change. Now I welcome it. I always say it happens for the best. We don’t know the what if’s. We could play what if’s forever. I know you are too smart to say what if you still had your old home—but hearing that woman say what if she had only…..

    I hope this is your new beginning. I look forward to your new blog. Let me know when it is up and running. Sounds like your new gardens will be starting about the same time as mine. We can watch our babies grow up together;)

  33. Just catching up on my long neglected visits to garden bloggers, Nancy. Your post brought tears to my eyes but they ended when I read of your hopes and aspirations for the future.

    Starting a new garden and garden blog will be a great new beginning for you and heal a lot of the pain you’ve been through.

    I wish you all the best.

  34. Another post that is a joy to read. Thanks for sharing and inspiring others to do likewise.
    Shirley

  35. What a movingly expressive post. It reflects the passages of life, whether through age or circumstance, that we all endure at some time. I can relate to your story.
    My current garden really came too late for me to make it a long term project. With my husband’s newly developed health issues, as well as our ages that just seemed to sneak up on us–it’s obvious we just can’t keep up with our large property. So much work has gone into it, yet, we know we have to give it up. With the real estate market in the tank, selling is next to impossible for who knows how long, so we limp along, doing the best we can. We’re used to the idea we have to move on, but it’s like giving in, almost, to age and circumstance. I’m trying to look at it as the next big adventure, but haven’t quite reached that point. It reminds me of your feeling that you’ve never quite unpacked. Though we are settled in, knowing that it is semi-temporary is like never having unpacked.
    Good luck on your new blog. I look forward to reading it!
    Aiyana

  36. Pingback: What Makes a Post “Legitimately Good”? « Soliloquy

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