Returning To Eden…

I have been away from this blog for awhile. I came through a long dark night of the soul, swallowed nearly whole with depression and severe anxiety that culminated with the Mobile Crisis Unit being called out and a serious doctor’s appointment that ended up with changed medications and the changing of doctors and many weeks when life did not seem livable. I have survived this dark time, I am resurfacing, and I am returning to my own Eden, with a worn, oversized, comfortable chair, books, no more television (I got rid of cable.) and a garden and a life that needed taming and tending. I am beginning again. I have a long way to go.

There were weeks and weeks when life was so bleak that all I could do was to hide in my chair under my old soft blanket with my three pugs and cry into their fur. I didn’t know how I would go on but I knew that go on I must. Without the constant support of my beloved daughter Rachel, the rest of my family and close friends, and an amazing woman from the Mobile Crisis Unit who, after coming to my home one night when things were at their darkest, stayed on to follow my case, go with my daughter and I to the doctor, and she went personally to the clinic where I had been going but wasn’t taken care of for three days running when I called and couldn’t get any help when I was in terrible crisis. She became my advocate and my champion. And the tides turned, and things began to change. Today I am more at peace than I had imagined I could be, I am getting better, I am taking steps into a new life.

I have been reading old, much loved books that have soothed my spirit and calmed my soul, the books of Gladys Taber.(They were mostly written from the 1930’s to the 1950’s and 1960’s on up until about 1980, are out of print, but most of them are available still through amazon and libraries.) These books are filled with gentle philosophy, life with dogs, and gardening and cooking, life in the country, and so much more. It’s the Stillmeadow books you want to look for, and more delightful, lovely books I’ve never known. Inside the covers of these books are lists of dates when I have read and reread them. They have steered me through the years and have been incredibly healing in these hard, hard times.

And then, finally, and maybe most important of all, I have returned to the garden. I am a natural gardener by nature, have created many gardens, studied gardening, had a vast gardening library and wrote about gardening in magazines and newspapers. Tending a garden was at the core of my being, and when I bought this place in January 2010 I not only began immediately to garden but I created a magical world here. There was the Magic Ship that I have written about here on the blog, a giant, life-sized magical ship a previous owner had built for their children that I had restored and painted hot pink, orchid, and orange. One charming shed was painted the same colors and another shed painted lime green and cherry pink. I had 2 picket fence gardens built, one candy pink, and another lime green. And the gardens were filled with magical life-sized animals, and glass houses that held a great many roses and other plants. People would come and tell me it looked like a Dr. Seuss garden. Pure magic. And it was. I planted 60 roses, mostly old fashioned roses, and thousands of bulbs, it was captivating, and I spent most of my days working in the garden with my pugs ambling about the grounds around me. There was an enchanting pot garden on my large deck just off my studio filled with herbs and roses and all manner of plants. I was so happy here. But it all came to an end the night of February 5, 2014, the night of the fire. The house burned, the pot garden on the deck was destroyed by the firemen desperately trying to put out the raging fire from 7 p.m. until nearly 1 a.m., the plants on the front porch were destroyed, and, one week later, in an ice storm, my beloved Magic Ship was crushed by a huge falling tree. By then I was living in a hotel with my dogs. It would be over 8 months until I returned and my garden, with lack of watering in this terribly hot climate, and lack of care, had mostly died or been taken over with weeds.

When I arrived back home after the house had been rebuilt the deck was a mass of broken pots, shards everywhere, and dead plants. The Magic Ship which had stood majestic in one whole corner of the large garden had been torn down and was gone. It looked like a ghost garden. I went inside, heartbroken, closed the door behind me, and stopped gardening altogether. I just couldn’t face it. Over a year ago I put the house on the market. It looked at first as though the house might sell quickly and the garden was still filled with garden art, giant animals, the glass houses, and more, and I didn’t know what to do with everything. I hired men to come out and clean everything out and carry it off. When the head man said, “How much do you want us to take?” I said, “Take everything, I want it to look like no one ever gardened here.” And at the end of a long day with truckloads of stuff carted off the landscape was barren save for the sheds, the picket fence gardens, now empty, and roses that grew all along the fence but though alive due to lack of feeding and care barely bloomed at all. It was devoid of life with little left of the magical garden that had existed. It broke my heart. I said I would never garden again.

Time passed. The house did not sell, and through a long string of events it came to pass that I would stay here, and there have been times that I looked out over the garden that was and cried. How could it all have been so magical and now be gone? And after the fire I had neither the money or the energy to create, once more, what I had once created. And a year went by, and more, and I have been struggling just to survive. But, gardens do not leave your soul, and there are remnants of what was still. I designed and had built waist high raised beds in the shape of a U. They had once been beautiful filled with little perennials and herbs, a fairy garden, but they were mostly dead and terribly overgrown. Could I reclaim them? Would I? Did I have it in me?

My dear friend Noni talked to me a lot about them. If I could just start with the raised beds… And I said maybe, but I just couldn’t begin. A week ago, with new medication helping stabilize me and raise my spirits I went out and looked at those raised beds. Maybe I would just pull a weed or two. But in one morning I had weeded one whole long side. A couple of days more and I had weeded and pruned downed two more sides. My old fashioned violets were still alive, and my beloved dianthus, “Bath’s Pinks,” a very old variety that had taken over nearly one whole side still put out a few flowers. I pruned them back hard and everything else was scrupulously weeded. There was a giant pile of weeds and detritus on the ground in the middle of the raised beds. I did it. The garden had called to me and called to me and finally I returned, to this one small area. I began again. And it felt incredible.

Since then I have talked to a man who has helped me out here about bringing a tiller to till the green gated garden so I can plant there. I am going to get herbs to plant in the raised beds and the rest will be bulbs and seeds. And just yesterday I ordered rose pruning gloves because one side of the green picket fence is covered down the whole length of it with a rose that bloomed so gloriously this year it was not to be believed but it is terribly overgrown and the thorns are wicked bad. And all of the roses blooming down one whole side of the yard that barely put out blooms have been calling to me. It will take me weeks to reclaim the roses but I ordered 3 bags of rose food and I will, one by one, prune the roses back hard and feed them all. It will take time, I can only move in baby steps right now, but I am babystepping my way, I am gardening again, and something in me has awakened. I have returned to my Eden. My own little corner of the world. And it will never be what it once was but it doesn’t have to be. Every garden I have planted has been different. So, too, this one. And one day there will be another pot garden on the deck, when I can find pots at thrift shops, flea markets, or garage sales, and when I can afford the bags of soil to fill them with. Yes, it will take time but where am I going? I am only 63. The garden is my chapel. I will pray here and create a whole new place to worship. It is a miracle. I am in awe.

Three weeks ago I didn’t know what would become of me. I was afraid there was no life left for me. Today I am full of hope, and there is joy trickling in around the edges. I read, I play with my pugs, I go out into the garden. I am imagining a whole new world, right here where I live, I have hope for the future, something I have not had in a long time. Something in me died the night of the fire. Three and a half years later I am coming back to life. I am joyous as I write that, in a nearly dark room with small pugs sleeping and snoring around me. We have a new life, the pugs and I, and we will not waste a moment of it. I have returned to Eden, and here I plan to stay.