Gardening was never a part of my life growing up. I lived in the middle of the city with stone and cement everywhere, so the most I knew about gardening had to do with the parks, meridians, and what the neighbors could cram onto their balconies. I remember one neighbor grew a single tomato plant on hers. She said she used them to make her own tomato sauce. As a child I didn’t understand the appeal.
As an adult I would soon find out. When I was about thirty I was diagnosed with chronic depression. For a long time I had felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me, daring me to join my dead ancestors beyond the grave. The doctors had no reasoning for this other than a chemical imbalance. What I never told any of them was about the abuse I had faced in a relationship, the death of family members, and a miscarriage all in one year. Talking about those things only made me more depressed.
I tried many things to feel better. Therapy, spa treatments, even going on vacation did nothing to lift the veil of horror from my eyes. Every day was a struggle to get up and go. I managed to get a new job, a new partner, and a new place to live in the suburbs, but I still didn’t feel like any of it was worth it.
Then one day I went for a walk and realized that I lived in a beautiful neighborhood. All of the lawns were full of colorful flowers, fresh vegetables, and even the occasional fruit bush or tree. I asked one neighbor pruning a rose bush how she got started. The next thing I knew, I was at a home improvement place looking to see how I could add some color and life to my own.
It was rocky going that first spring. I barely knew what I was doing, but my neighbors were helpful and showed me some tips I would never read in books. In time I began to see the literal fruit of my neighbors. Slowly, over the years, my garden grew in more ways than one.. With every plant I cultivated and seeded from the earth, a bit of that dark cloud disappeared over my head. It was like my plants were my guardian angels, trying to get me to survive.
My loved ones noticed the change as well. They commented that I seemed happier, brighter. I would take them veggies and bouquets of flowers that I cultivated myself. My sister said that she could feel my essence in a single dahlia. I believe her. I pour all of my frustrations, my fears and my regrets into every seed I plant. Those plants in turn use my negativity to fertilize themselves and grow into something beautiful. I truly believe that is what’s happening.
I don’t know if I would still be alive today if I never discovered gardening. It’s like the missing piece of my soul that was absconded one day when looking at my neighbor’s tomato plant. I now grow them in her honor.