Of Mint and Marigolds

“There are as many ways to live in this world as there are people in this world, and each one deserves a closer look.”


If you are close to my age, you remember reading Harriet the Spy as a kid. It was a great book with all kinds of kooky and unusual characters. And when Nickelodeon made a movie based on it a while back, tho it was very different from the book, it also made a point to include a wide variety of characters. As a weedling and an adult, i was so glad to see spectrum of people because i was and am surrounded by a stunning array of unique individuals. And the older i get, the more i realize that there are far more ways to live than i ever imagined. There are those who know me well, look at my life, and see me as one of the unusual ones; and others who find me rather conservative in my choices. (OK, there aren’t many of the latter, but there are some…) In the end, the beautiful part is that we made a choice. To live as we see fit. Plant the seeds of things we want to enjoy and share. Our own personal garden of love.

Have you ever seen an English cottage garden? It is a glorious mess. Beautiful flowers, herbs, shrubs… Very little structure, no formal order… Just a cacophonous hodgepodge of color and texture and form. And no two are the same. For many of us, life is like that. Dig behind the clump of coneflower and you may find cosmos. Or you may find oregano. That’s the beauty of it. So many disparate notes rolled into one crazy symphony.  To the outsider, no rhyme or reason. To those unfamiliar, it might appear that a seed truck overturned in the yard. But in its discord, there is exceptional wild beauty. I would say that my life is like that. A terraced bed of herbs and wildflowers and creepers with the occasional high-bred lilac. All mounded together. A surprise around every corner. Sometimes it’s even a surprise to me.

Now, my sister? She has more of a traditional garden. The kind that makes you stop every night on your evening walk, to take a moment to enjoy and smile, remembering that it’s those little things, like flowers, that make life worth living. The interesting part about my sister is that having a traditional garden was not an obvious choice for her. We didn’t grow up in a traditional family. No one taught her which flowers to plant where or what bulbs were compatible with what shrubs. She just had this natural talent. Don’t get me wrong… Look behind the rosebush and you may find an odd bit of Lamb’s Tongue. But even still, the woman has made a damned fine Martha-esque landscape with very little training.

I know people with very orderly vegetable gardens of lives. Every plant in a neat row and serving a specific purpose. I have noticed that many of my local friends have gardens like these. Rows of carrots and corn and tomatoes. Some have special sections of fun fruits and such to help their weedlings learn to tend their own garden (How much respect i have for these people!) Some have very small gardens and prefer to get their produce from others. Some have unusual plants done in an orderly way. Or traditional plants in a cottage style way. And some have little more than a single beautiful orchid.

Each of those gardens is worth a look.

There is a saying often attributed to Einstein, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” In that vein, judging someone else’s garden by the rules of your garden can be similarly hazardous. I can look at your orderly rows of green beans and peppers and think to myself, “Nope. Not for me.” But the minute that statement degrades into something akin to, “You are supposed to put the zucchini in the front!” Or, “They are doing it wrong. There should be some sunflowers in the back.” Then, we have a problem. Just because i don’t like your garden doesn’t mean it is bad or not worthy or wrong.

Because in the end, your garden is not my garden. I can tell you, if asked, that i think hostas are boring. But i have no right to go into your garden and dig them up. You can tell me that my yard looks like unicorn vomit. But you have no right to come stake my garden into rows. Rather we should appreciate each bed as it is, even if it isn’t one we would want for ourselves.

Of course, if you let your watermelon spread over into my yard, that’s a different matter entirely….


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