Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Thunder is rumbling across the sky sending shivers down my spine, how I do so love the storms of spring.  Iron clouds of battleship grey undulate outside my window, rain sluicing down the glass even as it trembles, washing winter's touch from the surface of the world. 

Rain is a lovely thing.  Its damp entrance does indeed make my bones ache but it accomplishes one thing that even my husband despairs to achieve -- it makes me pause.  Traps me inside, leaves the tools and stones and seeds outdoors...and I rest.  At the moment, I'm rather relieved as the bruises have accumulated a bit faster than usual lately.  Last week I spent seventeen hours on a ladder scraping, sanding and painting the porch ceiling a delicious dark chocolate to match the shutters.  Painted the porch and rails, scrubbed the siding to a blinding white (which I fear has been before our purchase of this place since last occurring), potted up the ferns, filled the hummingbird feeder and cleaned the grill in anticipation of long delicious evenings. 

I only fell off the ladder once. 

And then the roses arrived.

Frustrated with the anemic shrubs that crouched along the front of the house like anorexic tarantulas, I took the plunge and sent off for three rose bushes of a new variety: low on sun, blooms from spring through the crisp of fall, resistant to mold and spot--essentially heaven with honey colored petals. 

Did I mention that I've never planted roses before?

Tucked within the neat brown wrapping along with rooted plants, was a small innocuous book.  "How To Plant Anything."  Page twenty: Roses.  Did you know a two foot wide, two foot deep hole dug into the earth for every plant is required? (I certainly did not)  Fill the bottom with gravel for good drainage, mix the loam and soil and pile into a cone shape upon which you sill spread out the baby roots which have been soaking for a day....

Two hours past dinner, dusk not far off, I'm on my knees in the front yard.  A tear in my jeans leaves smears of black and brown on my knee.  My old Chuck Taylors slipping in the mud and grass, I lugged buckets of broken rocks to the edge of the now prepared (holed) brick edged flower bed.  My husband came out to watch for a bit...."More than you anticipated, hmmmm?"  I think I panted an answer of a grunt, heaving dirt up onto the tarp I'd spread out to protect the lawn.

One neighbor offered rootbeer which my husband enjoyed, and another brought me a strawberry alcoholic beverage that I slurped down like a nine year-old with a slushy. (we do have such lovely neighbors)  My back ached.  The muscles in my arms were hard and felt like wire twisted too taunt beneath my flesh as the leather gloves chafed the soft skin on the inside of my wrists.  I had grit on my cheek and bits of grass in my hair, but as I held the already budding canes carefully still while gently pouring the soft dirt that smelled of life and wind and rain to cover roots that I whispered prayers of deep growth over, the satisfaction was nearly a flavor on my tongue. 

Such is planting.

Some of my earliest memories were of my mother in the garden.  I remember watching the miracle of tiny black seeds sprouting into heads of cabbage and mountains of tomatoes and squash long before ever stepping a foot inside school.  I think my first true love might have been dirt. (and I had the laundry to prove it--and to some extent, still do)  The possibilities within the dark earth...ground   well-tilled, aired out and tumbled with nutrients, fertile land within which to grow and flourish.  Nourishment of the soul as well as the body whole. 

It's work.  It's painful.  I've nine bruises, two scrapes and this is what happened when my hand slipped on the shovel, stoving my middle finger.  *sigh*

But oh, the seeds we plant regardless; some with care, some without.  In our children, our relationships, our futures.  I look back and clearly see the years my garden was....lacking.  My investment was terribly visible in the harvest.  Sparse and dry.  Perhaps this understanding comes with age?  Watching a thought bulge into an idea and then unfold into a plan.  Exertion and discipline and sweat.  And then luscious, succulent fruit.  Or maybe the recognition of a kindred soul, infused with time and kindness--and friendship follows.  Journals written, talents explored, horizons challenged...
The air is heavy, saturated with rain and promise. 
What are you planting this spring?


Robbie Grey said...

"anemic shrubs that crouched along the front of the house like anorexic tarantulas..."

Fantastic line!

A few days back, the community garden, down valley, opened up and we uncovered our plot. Helping set up got me anxious for the green to finally get here. We have a list of what we're getting from starts and starting from seed. I'm excited at the prospect.

Shea Goff said...

I love coming here and seeing what you plant.

My strawberries may make it after all. Despite, or possibly to spite, the deer they have come back gorgeous.

Chantel said...

Robbie--I adore the thought of a community garden! All that creativity and effort going into something shared sounds wonderful, in addition to delicious!, the pancakes and muffins and scones, pardon my drooling. :)

Anonymous said...

I have started from seeds, jalapenos, tomatoes, cucumbers, pepperoncini peppers(had to send off for the seeds on those) and they are about three inches tall. I will soon transplant them when I know it will no longer be cold. I love pepperoncinis, I have started canning my peppers. I skipped the banana and cayenne this year though. xo

ND Mitchell said...

I'm a very amateur gardener but have just planted some brocolli in the back garden. Fingers crossed. Also got my hanging basket sorted for out the front. This was a lovely springtime read Chantel. I agree with Robbie that the tarantulas comparison was brilliant :)

Shelly said...

Bliss! And true bliss often has some contusions, and some aches, and some pain in the mix, but that makes the harvest all the sweeter.

The knuckle bruise made me wince. Be gentle with yourself, my friend!

Chantel said...

BamaTrav--my, there is salsa just waiting for cilantro and lime in there!

David--thank you, I'm sure your brocoli is going to be brilliant! (cold salad with crispy bacon, mayo, little vinegar and sugar--delish)

Shelly--you're right, it makes it sweeter indeed! And I'm taking the day off to paint, thank goodness I hurt my left hand! :)

terlee said...

So far I've planted a few little trees and a shrub, filled seven pots with flowers, and after weeding and nurturing the back slope, I'll scatter wildflower seed, then decide what veggies to grow in my three little raised beds.

I'm equally bruised, very sore, and would dearly love a good rainy day to stay indoors, though--too bad for me--the weather is to stay sunny for awhile.

Ah well, one of these days I'll be lounging on the deck, drink in hand, admiring the results of all my work...I hope.

Brian Miller said...

i like how you make this a metaphor there in the end...planting takes work if you are going to do it right...we cant just haphazardly toss seed or shove plants in the ground and expect them to grow you know....

anorexic tarantulas eh? smiles.

Stephanie @ Life, Unexpectedly said...

I hope to plant more love and patience (there can never be enough), and I want to buy a little window sill flower garden for each of the girls and play in the dirt together.

Chantel said...

Terlee--I do hope you sip wine as the sun sets, relishing your handiwork and the joy that is to come...and be careful! lol Hello Pot, my name is Kettle...

Brian--entirely too many think a casual hand leads to a grand harvest...who started that lie?

Stephanie--oh, I do like your seeds indeed! And they will love their gardens, thus sowing great lessons and beautiful futures. :)

Anonymous said...

This year I've insisted I'm not planting a thing, because I have to use pots on a deck acres above the ground. But I know some little seedling will creep in and tickle my heart, and I'll just have to help it grow. - Last year, nothing grew, and I spent tons on dirt and love.

But the grey rain - aaahhh, I know it well in my tiny world of giant slugs and silver mornings. - I am so excited to see what you have painted!! Maybe tomorrow I'll have a go at my own canvas.

Love your words lady.. and DANG IT, you have beautiful hands too! Even mauled by your tools, and they're still prettier than mine will ever hope to be. But then, that's the difference between elves and dwarves. ;)

Chantel said...

Jane--such a lovely comment to wake up to this morning! I will take pics of the canvases I'm working on soon, promise. (and the pic of the giant slug you have is unbelievable!) Even without ground, per se, you should at LEAST have some potted herbs, Le Chef! My porch rails host a ramshackle collection of pottery, chives and basil, rosemary and thyme and oregano--oh, and mint for mojitos, of course! :)

Mary Kirkland said...

I always love your posts, you have such a way with words.

I've never done much planting/gardening I have a green thumb. My brother is the one who does all that, he can make anything grow. He actually just came into town and brought me some oranges off his orange tree. Nothing better than fresh fruit.

Anonymous said...

But it is a lovely hand.

.."More than you anticipated, hmmmm?" ~I'm willing to bet that you are more than he originally anticipated too.

Beautifully worded. I think this more than hints at inward experiences, beyond labels, that take root & grow. I love the areas of a garden where the plants & flowers seem to be fighting for space, losing, but not disappointed. Smiling at me, in fact.

Me, planting? I'm trying to embody whatever I most want to impart. ~Mary

The Loerzels said...

Your hands are as gorgeous as your words! Mine are ashy, cracked with half moon cuticles. And my nails clipped, not shaped.

Chantel said...

Mary K--oranges fresh off the tree sound fabulous! And I bet you'd be able to grow more than you think--try herbs, they add so much to a kitchen. :)

Mary--oh yes, I was. *grin* I too love the wild gardens, where the boundaries are suggestions and the inhabitants mingle. I feel what you're planting is the most honorable of all....and the most difficult. Rarely are we good (honest?) at serving what we'd like to eat.

Marie--lol, thank you love! I've never had a manicure, and mine are most often covered in layers of dried paint--this was just a "rest" day.

Dee said...

Dear Chantel, such a lovely post. So evocative and thought-provoking. I hope your roses bloom all summer and that they bask in the care you've given them.

As to what I'm going to plant. I'm not sure that any perennials or vegetables will be planted this year, but I am going to finally try to plant myself here in this new state where I've lived for four years now and felt like a "stranger in a strange land." I'm going to try to cease grieving for what I left behind. I'm going to try to turn my face from the door to the past and look out the window to the present. I'm going to try to find a home here. So I guess I'm planting myself.

I've been away from posting and from reading blogs for some time due to a minor health problem. But today, I'm trying to begin anew. And your posting certainly gives me a reason to do that. Peace.

Chantel said...

Sweet Dee--I believe planting yourself to be the greatest investment of all. Whether in relationships, communities, do such opens the door to beautiful intimacy, but vulnerability as well. I will hold you in my thoughts this week...may you find peace and joy in your new garden. xo

Mel Heth said...

Gardening has to be one of the most meditative activities on earth. (Minus the rose bush thorns.) I lose hours to it regularly. Although I think I need your book to help me with the roses at the new house. Some are taking over the yard, others are sad and spindly.

I ripped out some sad broccoli plants and pulled overdone beets, parsnips and carrots this week. I think I'll be planting some zucchini and maybe cucumber this weekend. And then there are the life seeds to be planted... Oh where to begin!