Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fragmented Memories of My Gramma's Garden

Howdy Hey Blog Fans!

My place of employment hosts a monthly event called "Words on Water". Every month there is a theme, a featured guest and a then it's open mic to whomever is there. Based on said theme people are able to use this happy venue as a place to recite a poem, sing a song, maybe do a little acting, or tell a story. In May the theme was "Gardening and/or Flowers". I wrote, and read, about my Gramma.

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My Gramma's garden was a place of beauty and oddities.
A place of nourishment and eccentricities.
A place of wonder and silence
A place of memory and warm aromas.

My Grandparent's home sat in the middle of her paradise.

As you approached the driveway you drove past the "spooky forest" which was fronted by rock gardens filled with many types of creepers and heather.

A large hedge bordered the right side of the their driveway; a hedge that was once home to many animals, including raccoons that more then once climbed through my Gramma's window and slept at the end of her bed.

At the end of hedge was a gate and beyond the gate was a large compost. Scraps from the potent "pig bucket" that she kept under the sink in the kitchen were carted out daily to this pile. Once nature had taken its course, the compost matter was used to fertilize her beautiful gardens.

My Gramma grew vegetables of all kinds and loved to steam them lightly and eat them right out the pot, dripping with butter, while watching a beloved nature show on PBS in her utility room.

She had a greenhouse that always smelled of musty earth and housed her many varieties of tomato plants. I always feared to go in there and especially into the little potting shed that was at the back of the greenhouse. It was too warm, the air too close and a cozy home for spiders.

She grew squash and beans, sweet peas and raspberries, broad beans and lettuce. On a summer day when she wasn't fishing we would often find her lounging on a lawn bed, shelling peas while watching "One Life to Live" or "General Hospital" on her 13" black and white TV. She had a great long cord for it that extended the length of her garden so that she could gasp in horror at all the loud kissing while she relaxed and worked near a patch of sunny flowers.

Her little house was surrounded by her flower gardens.

Flowers in window boxes.
Flowers in gardens below her dining room window, below the living room window, below the bedroom windows.
Flowers in hanging baskets from every corner of her house or hanging from the low branches of her apple tree.
Flowers in pots on her brick paths, in her driveway or under trees. Often they were not in pots at all, but in large barnacles she had collected while beach combing.

My Gramma being a person of the sea as well as of the earth made her fishing experiences part of her garden. Behind a fence covered with honey sweet nasturtiums, she had a table she and my Grandfather used for gutting fish. Often I would trek slowly along the garden stones to the table, not wanting to step in the mud and poke fish eyes or marvel at the fish eggs of a salmon.

She had a smoke house in the garden and used it often. The smell of smoking salmon and nasturtiums, fresh turned earth and fish heads is not one that is easily forgotten.

Near the end of my Gramma's life her garden took on an even more eccentric quality. When she hadn't the strength to plant all the types of beautiful and vibrant flowers that she loved, she decorated the ones she had. She would spray paint the teazle blue, yellow, orange or red and sprinkle them with sparkles, often while they were still in the garden. Her sunflowers which had deep red orange leaves and bright yellow centres wore happy smiles which she'd drawn on with a permanent marker.

A real treasure of her garden was Randolf. About 10 years before my Gramma passed away, she found a piece of driftwood while out fishing that bore a resemblance to the neck and head of a reindeer. For 11 months of the year Randolph stood watch in the garden. He would become part of it sometimes becoming wrapped in vines, or showered with petals, soaked with rain for days on end and on rare occasion, be covered with snow. But in December Randolf was brought into the living room and lovingly decorated as "The Christmas Tree". My Gramma would find twisted branches of evergreens and display them behind is head like antlers. These would be covered in many lights. And as he was a reindeer named Randolf, he had on light, a red one, on his nose. The best part of Randolf was that weathering of the marvelous piece of driftwood caused a split at in the "facial area" that looked like a smile. My Gramma would stare at him with great pride and grin and ask me "Doesn't he look happy?"

When kneeling in the garden became too difficult for her, my father made my Gramma sturdy raised garden beds so that she could continue to grow the veggies she so loved. He made them out of thick beams which he bound together with railway spikes. I remember thinking that the only way these beautiful garden beds would ever come apart were if they were bulldozed down...which is what ended up happening in the end.

When my Gramma passed away 8 years ago, a year after my Grandfather had died, my mother and her siblings sold the house and the land. The house, which was 70 years old at least, and in need of rewiring and re-piping was torn down. The "spooky forest" where my brother and I had played and scared ourselves was pulled down. And all of my Gramma's beautiful, wondrous, eccentric and beloved gardens were dug up and replaced by 2 houses.

There are more memories for me of this special place then I can ever write down. I feel great sorrow for what was lost, and even more sadness for the families who now live with the ghost of the beauty created by a woman who not only loved to garden, but needed to. But I mostly feel happiness and great fortune that I was once witness to a most beautiful place.

Until next time,
Find Happiness in Cin

1 comment:

Paul Shepherd said...

I remember her paying us a nickel for each cabbage butterfly we would catch. and after the hard work we would lounge in the inflatable children's pool where we could see her watching her daily stories. I sure do miss it there. great post Cindy