I took the bus from my lover’s house into the big city with the big library. I checked out a copy of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ The Faithful Gardener and took it to my own home in the middle of that big city. I rearranged the furniture until I was comfortable, poured a cool glass of something, and then began to read. I read the whole book that night in fits and starts as I periodically joined my neighbours on the porch to hear the latest news of their lives and reports of the goings on of the neighbourhood.
Alone in the house that night I laid down to sleep in the heat. The central air conditioner was taking a very long time to do its job. I tossed and turned fitfully and thought about what I had read. I wondered what might be that in me which never dies. I wondered somewhat fearfully if there was any such thing in me. I have always suspected I was born missing some important essence or instinct. But I took hope in the assurance that it is necessary to let a field lie fallow for some period of time in order for it to become useful again. I tossed and turned and prayed that it was true.
I was thinking today of the northern area of our province. When we travel to go canoeing it is easy to see which areas were cleared either by cutting or by fire at some point. Most of our forest is mixed boreal and conifer. The areas where there had been some previous clearing of the land would be populated with only Birch and Poplar trees because they grow very fast. Beautiful as they are, however, they are known as “trash trees” to some because they don’t have a long life span.
All that has grown up in the garden of my life was like those opportunistic trees; projects and purposes grew big fast and were pretty to look at but didn’t last very long. I am not a faithful gardener. I am a tired gardener. A gardener tired of watching all my pretty dreams fall back to the earth to become bug food and mulch. But even as I moan and wail I toss seeds in the form of words into the long fallow field of dreams. What words? I have been drawn back to school to learn the language of caring for animals.
After moaning and groaning to myself that surely, surely, surely these college courses were just more birch trees and poplars that will fall down and rot like the others so why bother and don’t waste your time and you’re just trying to fool yourself into thinking you’re doing something for yourself that will last but it won’t last ‘cause it never does…after all that, I registered for the courses, I planted the seeds.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I laid awake thinking about those precious seeds. Was it the right time to plant them? Will I be able to nurture them properly to make them bear fruit? Did I plant enough of them? I got out of bed and went back downstairs to the computer to check the start and end dates of the courses, to learn the parameters of my season. I went back to bed knowing when I would need to pick up my gardening tools and lay them down again. Four months. September to December. It still took a while to fall asleep. Yes, I am a tired gardener, but I am also an anxious gardener, waiting impatiently to see whether my miniscule crop will take root or rot.