The Garden

"The moment of the rose, and the moment of the yew tree, are of equal duration"


She lost him when he was eleven, after many years of painful treatment; physically painful for him, emotionally painful for them all. He had spent much of his last five years in hospital, needing daily visits to calm his fears, and she had needed to make time for her other children too.

After he was gone, there was a lot of time left over, time she had spent with him that she now had to spend alone. The other three kids were at school, her husband at work, the house empty, apart from her. There was only so much cleaning she could do, and years of juggling the demands of her household with the daily trips to the hospital meant that she had honed her daily routine down to a couple of hours, so she still found herself with time on her hands; lots of time.


She took up gardening, partly because she had long felt the need to do something with the large swath of land that came with their corner house, but also because the simple act of being outside felt to her like she had escaped from something. The briefest gust of wind on her cheeks, ruffling her hair, was a world away from the sterile, static atmosphere of the hospital rooms in which she had spent so much time.


She started with the grass, mowing it, trimming it, then began digging flower beds in front of the door. Thin, tall bushes served as cornerposts to mark off the path and driveway, and rose bushes in between were the multicolored equivalent of a picket fence. Every season she would pick new varieties of rose to grace these beds, along with a few types that became her favorites.


After a couple of years she decided to go to the next level, and turned her attention to the large triangle of grass that spread out to the side of the house. With the help of her son, she dug out three triangular beds, one in each corner, and a circle in the middle. Spruce trees would take pride of place in the middle of each, and more roses, as well as other, smaller bushes and flowers would fill the surrounding soil.


A few more seasons passed, the plants took root and spread. The spruce trees were taller than she, and over a hundred varieties of rose were mixed in the six beds she maintained. People passing by would stop and stare for a while, some taking photographs, at the glory of color that was spread before them. This meant she had to keep trimming the hedge she had planted around the periphery wall, a task that took up a full three days, twice every summer.


When a small part of that hedge fell to disease, its place was taken by a bench, and a wicker frame to hold ivy. Summer days would then be spent reading here, once her chores were done. A rock garden in the back yard completed the landscape.


As age took its toll she farmed out many of the more arduous tasks to her youngest son, who was glad to fill the boring long days of summer. The spruce trees now ranked with the roof of the house in height, and the mix of roses and other blooms gradually grew into the pattern she felt to be most pleasing.


Her work was done, her garden was grown.


For several more years, she would enjoy it in tranquility. Reading more, and doing less work. Her children moved out to start lives of their own, and with time the garden began to show its age. Bushes became overgrown, weeds went untended, and the hedge grew tall and scraggy. A brief bout of illness convinced her that she was no longer up to the task of maintaining it, and she decided she should pass it on to younger hands.


She and her husband sold the house and moved to a smaller place down the coast. A young family moved in, initially entranced by the garden, but a sickness in one of their children would prompt them to clear it all out, giving their young boy a wide playground to enjoy once he recovered. The rose bushes were dug up, the spruce trees cut down, and a swing took the place of the bench. Coincidentally this happened in the same spring that the woman’s life drew to a close. The garden had done its job, filling a void in her life, and now it was time to serve a new master.


Copyright (C) 2012 A.Keyes All Rights Reserved.