Angela Bocage



My garden, such as it is

I had roommates in San Francisco who were among the biggest assholes I ever met who gardened. I have an ex-husband who gardened–he practically farmed when he had enough land. I’ve thought for years that most gardeners were so smug, so bourgeois…I never should have met Diane. Actually, I really never should have met Diane. First, my beloved and I got completely lost going to a party at her house in a charming little NJ town. But then, after a last ditch effort to find the right street got us tangled in a one-way street situation, we saw our dear friend the Bass Cat Lady, who’s actually a man but has, shall we say, a great many musical instruments in his abode, walking down a tree-shaded sidewalk with a lovely young lady.  We hailed him, and were introduced to Diane, who didn’t even live on that particular tree-shaded street. Such a lady she is, however, that she never told us her party had in fact been cancelled, due to her and her husband’s worries about their toddler being ill. Instead she gave us directions to her place–we’d been about a block away–entertained us graciously, and showed me her modest, sensible, lovely, no-trace-of-smug-or-bourgeois, plantings. She had yarrow, marigold, sage, sunflower, lavender, cilantro, rosemary…am I remembering everything correctly? Probably not. But I was powerfully reminded of the classes I used to take with Starhawk, Macha NightMare, and Sophia Moondragon, making charms, doing magic of all kinds for very good causes, because a lot of the herbs were the same. So I could pun most excruciatingly that this weirdly destined visit with Diane and her strangely powerfully lovely garden planted the seed (Ouch! Ouch!) so that when I left urban life for the rolling hills of eastern PA I started wanting to plant stuff. Was there ever a lot of land here–compared to the tiny jewels of urban gardens my adopted brother Steven created in the Bay Area and community gardeners created in the Lower East Side and Harlem (sometime I’ll tell you about working on the legal case that didn’t exactly save the gardens but bought them a much-needed year to get their activist act together) the front and back yard of my home with my wife seem like acreage (I think it’s about 3/4 of one). So the first things I planted were a tiny patch of watermelons and a tiny patch of pumpkins. Then I wanted to grow cilantro and parsley. The latter’s an important ingredient in my homemade dog food, after all. Then lavender, for the way it smells and its helpfulness on insect bites. Alyssum for a border. Oh, here’s a cayenne plant, let’s buy it. Those bare shady spots in the front would look a lot better if I could pop these shade-tolerant impatiens in. There was a rack in the grocery store with two kinds of marigolds and this gorgeous ombre-flaming yellow-to-red perennial. And bam, I’ve got six little beds going! And I am havin’ more fun, as they say in my Southern family but with extra syllables. I get to ask my girl if she’s seen how big my pumpkins are getting, and then to her shocked expression announce that I have four! Smash pretty colored tiles to make borders to make weeding easier. And darned if we’re not composting. I’m just happy as a pig in nice clean water. Because there were good memories of gardens, too, long ago. My grandmother’s daffodils, ivy, dogwood, and hydrangeas, the big kitchen garden my grandfather supervised before the university took the land behind our yard, thrilling me no end because he actually hired a guy with a plow pulled by a real live horse. My mother’s garden outside Jefferson City, Missouri, the idyllic years we had nine dogs, four cats, a parakeet and goldfish, because for once we had all the space for them all. She loved just going out and picking fresh corn, fresh spring onions, snap beans, lettuce, yellow squash and especially tomatoes, always trying to convert four-year-old me to the belief that food should look beautiful, that there should be lively natural color on one’s plate. She’d later tell everyone how I thought the spring onions were so pretty I’d often keep one under my pillow.

These are among the things I really want to figuratively keep under a pillow of memory, remember for my children, especially the stubborn magic of my battered, depressed, seemingly-downtrodden mother, all the joy she actually took in so many facets of life. So now, I have two tomato plants, and because of the garden-stuff-amassing ex alluded to in my last post, yesterday I even put these wire frames around ’em to help ’em grow. Well, if it’s not making you ill–I’m not smug, swear to goddess, and if I’m bourgeois where’s my money at?–I’ll tell more about the garden in the future. If all the fun I’m having mosaic-ing little smashy-tile borders doesn’t totally lead-poison us to death or something. Gotta end these posts on a cheerful note.

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