“You're not a gardener, are you? So perhaps you don't know that once a garden is established, much of good gardening is about removal rather than planting, honing what you have to produce a pleasing effect, sacrificing the particular for the good of the whole. Gardening is a creative pastime, but the result is always a work in progress; unlike a painting or a piece of music a garden is never fixed in time.
~ Rosalie Parker
A few days ago I tied the dog up on a long, skinny rope in the front yard and started in on the forget-me-nots. I pulled several buckets full, giving them a good shake before tossing them, roots and all into my red weeding bucket. Do I dare confess here that I then took each bucket across the street to the forested vacant lot and dumped them? True, the no dumping sign is long gone, but still I know maybe I am not supposed to do this. The lot backs up to the watershed and while I don't often toss weeds there, I feel like forget-me-nots can only bring beauty to the land. No one uses it, no one walks there, no one even notices it but me. I sit and gaze at it out our front window and come spring when it is full of forget-me-nots, it makes me happy.
My father was a stickler for rules, and it took a lot for him to bend them. When his memory started to fail, in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and the police brought him home a second time because he had gotten lost, my sister and I knew it was time to take away his drivers license. We suggested he not drive, but he was adamant that he was okay, after all he had been driving since he was 12. But we knew he would not break the law. So she had his doctor write to the department of licensing and soon a letter showed up explaining to him that he could no longer drive. He would go to grab his keys and all we had to do was remind him of the letter and he would shake his head, because he did not understand, but he would not drive. He would not break the law.
I thought of him as I was cleaning out the forget-me-nots, the dog watching me as I crossed our tiny road with each bucket full. I thought about how I was bending the rules in my own mind, for the beauty of the neighborhood. You see forget-me-nots are often the first sign of spring, their tiny blue flowers starting small and ending in such glory! They are persistent and graceful and beautiful in their masses. But there comes a time in their life cycle when they start to droop and get a bit of powdery mildew and then they must be pulled. Removal is very much a part of gardening and so I sat on my heels and pulled them by the bucket full and talked to the dog about my dad. I told him how he was a stickler for rules, and how much he loved beauty. I told him that while he did forget so much in those last few years of his life, he never forgot just how beautiful flowers were. I told him how he would stop and admire a flower, comment on its color and ask its name and then remember for a minute. So I think he would have been okay with my dumping them across the street. He would have liked the idea of a vacant lot full of forget-me-nots, growing in the spring light, filling the forest floor with beauty.
And come next spring, when the lot is ablaze with tiny blue flowers, I will think of my father, as I sit and gaze out my front window, with the dog beside me. And this, will make me happy.