I started writing an autobiography and this is the beginning of it—the only way I could even think of starting it.
I think it’s a funny idea…sitting down to start a book. Where would most of us even start to explain our lives?
It’s important to tell our stories. After we die, that’s all that will be left of us besides our bones, hair and nails. And the interesting thing about telling stories about our lives is that the story usually wouldn’t begin at birth; for some of us, our birth isn’t the most emotional, important or life-changing event.
So here’s the beginning of my story, the most important thing I remember that’s happened in my life so far:
I’m not talking about a vegetable garden. I’m not talking about tilling and weeding and spending hours watering a flat plot of land out in the middle of a field or in raised beds with hay in them. I’m not talking about time in a greenhouse with perfectly spaced seed starts in the beginning of March. I’m not talking about harvesting, canning, or making 25 loaves of zucchini bread. My dad and mom had that kind of a garden, but that’s not what I want to talk about right now.
I’m talking about the flower garden.
My mom would get up before the sun and she would go out to the lush backyard, where she would spend several hours on a Saturday morning. She’d put on her Birkenstocks and her gloves and she’d go out in her little shorts and a T-shirt without a bra that she haphazardly put on when she woke up with my dad to an east-facing window.
We’ve lived in a few houses together, and I’ve noticed that she and I have alternated being the first to wake up, depending on which direction our bedroom windows faced. But in this particular honey hole of a house in South-eastern Idaho, she woke up first to the hot sun during the summer.
She always made one piece of wheat toast with butter on it and then set out on her horticultural mission.
Her favorite flowers to plant were lupine, columbine, cosmos, lavender, sunflowers, and daisies. She liked the kind of flowers that don’t really need much babying once they are in the ground and have water. She loved the flowers that would get big and had lots of foliage. Perennials, mostly.
To this day, I still mostly paint with and choose clothes that are in the yellow, blue, and brown families. That’s the palette that my mom so devotedly etched into my developing mind. She spun ribbons of colored, blossoming synapses into my brain. And love and attention to detail and perseverance; I am neurotic because my mom was slightly neurotic and I liked the way it helped her accomplish things more quickly than everyone else.
Sometimes I would help her weed. Admittedly, I wasn’t as motivated to tend the flowerbeds as my mom was. But sometimes I would watch her through the window or from the deck.
She’s a tall lady, and she would crouch down to weed, come up to breathe and stretch her back, and then saunter over to the hose or the other side of the flowerbed. She wouldn’t stop weeding or watering or transplanting until it was done.
She transplanted all the time; if something didn’t have room to grow to its full potential, my mom took it upon herself to find a place for it. Now that I am older and living on my own, I think I now see that in myself too.
See, it’s not about just having a green thumb…it’s about caring and loving, even the things that can’t move or talk. You don’t give up on them, even these souls.
What’s the beginning of your story?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s own.