Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Gardener

The Gardener

It is an annual frustration for my mother that I can never manage to wear gardening gloves.  Over the years, she has given me a bevy of beautiful ones - floral cotton, pink leather, long, short and medium length - but every spring, she is once again disappointed upon catching sight of a bit of mushroom compost still clinging to my hastily manicured nails.  Most other months of the year, my hands are well tended but April is planting time and I simply love the feel of rich black dirt as I tuck another blue salvia or pink lantana into a well-dug flower bed.  So it was that as I was driving to collect Mother for lunch the other day I found myself stealing quick, guilty glances at my hands at every stoplight, buffing my nails on my trouser legs in an ultimately futile attempt to render them pristine.  I had been knee deep in my flower beds all week, and it showed.  
Rounding the corner on a familiar stretch of road near her house, I slowed my little Fiat down to a crawl.  I was soon to be passing a garden that never fails to treat the eye and I wanted to enjoy the sight at my leisure.  Sitting off the road to the right, this little bit of arcadia has been tended for years by an elderly man.  I couldn’t tell you his name but I see him every single time I pass by, sitting on the back of his equally elderly pick-up truck in the shadow of his handmade and flamboyantly frocked scarecrow, watching his garden grow.  Morning, noon, dusk, or evening - he is always there, without a book or a radio, no dog, no cat.  He sits there completely alone, painting a portrait of contentment and peace no artist could accurately duplicate.  It is a sight that never fails to loosen my shoulders and restore a sense of calm to a stressful day.  His garden is beautiful  and I look forward, almost unconsciously, to passing by and seeing it.  On this particular day however, I noticed something unusual and as I pulled up closer my heart sank when I saw the funeral wreath placed, most appropriately, right in the center of the recently planted garden.  So.  The gardener has left us.
As I sat there with my own gardener’s hands on the wheel, thinking how much I would miss the sight of the old man in his beloved patch of earth, I wondered who might have placed the wreath here in this spot.  Perhaps someone just like me, for whom this garden was a little gift each time they drove past.  I wondered if the old fellow knew all the strangers he had spoken to over these many years, not in words perhaps, but with all the eloquence found in the beauty and peace of nature herself.  When I drove back past later that afternoon, the funeral wreath had been joined by bouquets of every size and shape and I smiled through damp eyes as I considered how our lives can communicate wonderful things to others, even without our knowledge.  I wished the old gardener Godspeed.  
That same evening I passed by my sitting room window and spied a lady walking past our cottage, holding the hand of her small son.  I saw them stop in front of a little part of my garden that sits behind the stone mailbox, visible only to those walkers who take the sidewalk round.  She was showing him the tiny sheep that stand in the ground cover in front of the fairy house.  He laughed and nodded, pointing at the minuscule shepherd’s crook that leans by the door.  They stood there for the longest time, smiling and talking, before continuing on with their walk.
No, we never know what we give to others through those things we love to do.
 A well-cooked meal, a happy blog post. 
 A hand-written letter, a smile.
A flower garden.
Worth a short month of bad manicures, I’d say.


  1. Oh, I loved this so! Not only a kindred soul that cannot resist the deliciousness of dirt, but your telling of this old gardner was so soft, so lovely. May a new sower of seeds and beauty eventually move into his place. The world needs all they can get...

  2. My friend, and neighbor, makes those pink cottages.

    Tiny world !

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  3. What a sweet and touching story ... thank you ~

  4. Pamela,

    Your words ring so never knows what and how they touch the lives of others.

    This story brought a tear to my eye, I too wish this gardner peace and love and blessings on his way to meet his maker.

    Thank you Pamela for Always making my day when I come here to visit. It was actually your blog that and all of the lovely people on your blog roll that nudged me to a blog of my own. Thank you!


  5. Lovely Pamela and it makes me think of the importance of doing what we love while we are here. God bless you and the soil beneath your nails!

    I have a $100 Gift Card Giveaway from Soft Surroundings if you would like to enter!!

    Art by Karena

  6. How sad that the gardener has died - I hope his garden passes to someone who will love and tend it as he did.

    I don't wear gardening gloves either:) I start out with on but soon discard them.

  7. Hello Pamela:
    It is so true that so many connections and interconnections that exist between our lives and those of others we are unaware of. And, it is so touching when one does realise just how connected we are and how much pleasure and enrichment one can give to others when paths cross and lives intertwine.

    We believe that gardens belong to people of their time and few rarely stand the test of existing beyond the life of the gardener. So, whilst one can, it is good to feel the earth between the fingers and hope that one's own joy in the beauty of living things may touch the heart of others too!!

  8. What a lovely post. It is motivating me to get out in my garden in spite of howling winds and grey skies. I hate gardening gloves, but I'm not fond of the damage gardening does to my hands either. I've found that dishwashing gloves or medical gloves are a compromise, as they are thin enough to still enjoy the texture of the soil. I tend to wear those...most of the time.

  9. Oh, another tender and touching story...all the better because it's real. Especially, with photographs to support the made my day...this sweet story will stay with me for hours...

  10. ...paying it forward...worth every broken fingernail...

  11. Ah yes - gardening and gloves Pamela, a thorny problem here too. The trouble is that it is so lovely to feel the friable (how I love that word) soil between one's fingers. As I have been to a wedding recently I have been wearing gloves for every single job around the house and garden. No need now that it is all behind me.

  12. Oh Pamela, this is beautiful. I got a little weepy when you wrote about the funeral wreath in the man's garden. What you said is so true, we never really know who we touch with the things we do. I guess we need to keep in mind how we are touched by others, and hope we have the same effect. Your writing as always is perfection, and I love the phrase "this little bit of arcadia" when you describe your neighbor's garden. Thanks for your little "gift" to all of us today.

  13. Oh, Pamela. Sigh. Your post has touched a chord in me and I am resonating with the joy of it. You are such a dear one, aren't you. It's ironing day, but I'll be dreaming of the fairy plot I have long wished to plant beneath the boxwoods in the back garden. For the grandchildren and me. I saw some irish moss at Lowes yesterday. That would make a good beginning.

  14. What a wonderful story. I am an avid gardener and it was fun to read about the elderly gentleman gardener that lives near your mom. Your garden, with the tiny cottage, looks charming. Great thoughts for warm, spring day. Thank you.

  15. My heart is blessed. Thank you Pamela for sharing a lovley post.

    Tracy :)

  16. My favorite post yet!
    I need a fairy garden!

    Tara's friend makes those houses!

    I hope someone buys that garden who will love it , too!

  17. I just know the gentleman is already digging in the dirt of another more beautiful garden.......and what a wonderful place it will be to share with others who loved all Nature had to offer down here!

    I too am a gardener - my neighbors seem to love my efforts. I like to think I will leave a small patch of this earth looking pretty, cared for, and loved.

    I'm glad your neighbor enjoyed his hobby until the end and that he is being remembered. Hopefully someone will arrive soon to keep his plantings going.

    Sad, but lovely, post Pamela. Naughty you, put those gloves on and make your dear Mama happy! I always wear mine.

    Spring hugs, enjoy the garden chores - or perhaps that should read joys.

  18. You stories are like those songs, sitting in my mind and coming forward as a gentle melody once in a while!

  19. that is a beautiful story. makes me want to get my hands dirty. the wreath is really quite huge! I pictured something much smaller as I read your words.

    happy gardening. and be proud if you hard-earned garden hands.

  20. So true Pamela, we never know what effect we have on those around us, but we do know how much we love t read our blog posts. Another beautifully written post, thank you.
    BTW I also have trouble with gardening gloves ... and thimbles!

  21. I'v just finished reading 'The Jewel Garden' about Monty Don and his wife and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when I read through your post today, I sent a thought over to your old gardener chap wherever he may be. How wonderful his garden looks, yes I'm certain he knew just how much joy his toil had given!

    Hugs Jane

  22. Oh Pamela, what a beautiful post and lovely reminder that our actions can have far reaching consequences. Reminds me of one of my favourite reads, "The 5 People You Meet in Heaven"!
    Thanks for a wonderful story.

  23. I cannot think of more fitting tributes to this gardener; the wreath and bouquets, your words today. I imagine the gardener smiling down, enjoying his new garden now.

  24. So sweet. I also had a similar "old gardener" who every morning trudged out to his plot of ground until one morning there was a wreath tacked to a tree near the spot where he always worked. Love your little cottage and sheep.

  25. Ah, that's so sad but beautiful. You're right about little things touching others unbeknownst to us. I wish I could know the ways I've touched people. I'd try and do those things more often.

    I LOVE your little fairy garden. I wish I could walk by and look at it.

  26. That's a nice post. And also - so true. It can be very sad when a keen gardener dies and you see how quickly nature takes over. A good friend of ours died last year and her beloved garden is being taken over by weeds. We do what we can to keep it like she would have wanted it. It's not enough, though.

  27. Lovely, lovely post.
    For those us who love the feel of the earth in our hands, life is too short to worry about our manicures.

  28. I have a similar garden arrangement and the child down the street enjoys coming to play there. He always points things out to his mum, and I can only view them from high atop my window, for our cottage sits on a hill. I have never known what the details of their conversations but I do know that a little boy is enjoying being a little boy in my garden.

    Thank you and I am honored that you came for a visit. Anita

  29. Dear Pamela,
    I found your wonderful blog and started with this lovely story. Thank you for this treasure.
    Best wishes, Siret

  30. Theres something so magical about your posts that I love. I like savouring each and every word. I never hastily read your latest offering and will often postpone reading until I find the time to sit undisturbed and wallow in the words.
    This one touched me very much. Heres to the gardener, heres to all gardeners, heres to those that nurture the soil and heres to those that nurture the soul.

  31. Hello Pamela

    You told this story so beautifully and with such feeling. Gardeners are happy and content and their gentleness with their work seems to draw us into their lives. I have known a few farmers who also fit this description but sadly there could be many more.

    We are connected and this is a good reminder

    Thanks for another beautiful post
    Helen xx


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