In a few weeks a team of landscapers will tear through our yard to grade the soil and build retaining walls and rain gardens. In anticipation we’re tearing out fences, moving bushes, hauling rocks, and creating general muddy chaos. Plants everywhere need to move. So I took advantage of that community-building tool of modern technology—the neighborhood list-serve—and posted our excess: picket fencing, hostas galore, lilies of the valley, and those native plants that think they own the place, all for the taking.
Which is why all week a series of gardeners from the neighborhood have shown up with buckets. One woman wanted rhubarb; her partner wanted the fence (which I hadn’t yet finished digging up) for making into planters and benches. The posts were either extended four feet under ground or sunk in concrete. My immediate neighbor, who’s a work machine, had mysteriously and generously managed to take out the stretch of fencing along his property in under two hours while we were away. I’d already given two hours to a single post and hadn’t budged it. The women stuck around, helping me dig and haul, until the remaining fencing was loaded in their van. “When you’re ready to plant,” they said, “come check out our rain garden. We’ll give you whatever flowers you want.”
Most of the plants in our garden have a lineage of friendship or neighborliness. The ever-bearing strawberries were a housewarming gift when I bought my first home twenty years ago. The rock garden’s bath pinks, iris, and coral bells came from the garden of a woman I freelanced for when I first began self-employment. The raspberries came from across the alley. The plum tree was a gift from my daughter’s grandmother. We received this generosity and continue to enjoy the plants’ gifts in bounty and beauty and their need, ultimately, to be thinned. The rampant generosity of hearty plants invites the attentive gardener into even more generosity in an exponential increase of wealth. This is the earth’s scripture, the wisdom that’s ripe for the taking. By tending growing things we participate in this bigger evolving story that links us to memory and friendship and community—as I see it, the abundant body of God.
Hostas, anyone? –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew
Two or three times a year I put out a newsletter with all my upcoming classes and events, publications from students and clients, and a few reflections. Here’s the link to the latest issue of PenFeathers. If you’re interested, you can subscribe by clicking the link at the bottom of that page.