Spring has finally sprung in Chicagoland–after a long and crappy winter. The uptick in the weather coincided with a week-long staycation. And gnawing on my work-free agenda has been getting the garden planted–something Ken looked forward to and planned for every year. It was a true rite of spring in our house. Though it wasn’t my thing, he’d ask for my opinion and help in planning for and caring for it.
It’s my third consecutive year of planting and maintaining the garden. First and second excursions were moderately successful. It’s not something I really planned to do, but it’s an undeniable way to feel connected to Ken and lovingly honor a little piece of him and something he loved in a tangible way. When Ken curated the garden it was lush, and full of flowers and vegetables and herbs. (Oh my!)
Though I’ve kept with the tradition of growing herbs–I like to cook with them, and there is nothing like plucking your herbs fresh off the plant–I’ve kept it simple with only a few perennials and colorful hanging baskets of flowers. I’m not a gardener the way most people are, and I’m realistic in what my time commitment will be. Plus, wedding is boring as hell. (Hello, mulch, nice to make your acquaintance.) Nonetheless, this year since I had the time and the weather was being cooperative, I decided I’d add some color and add some annuals.
It’s always a bit of a zen experience when I set to work in the dirt that fringes the patio in the back yard. It’s not that I think Ken can see me or anything, but working the dirt he worked with his hands offers me a connection to him that I really didn’t have while he was alive. Or couldn’t appreciate.
I projected 4 hours for this project–which was about 2 hours off. And you know in which direction. But as I cleaned up the area and did some weeding, I was struck by the lone hyacinth that was growing at the base of the rose plant our friend Barbara came over and planted for Ken in the last weeks of his life. He loved hyacinth but I can’t for the life of me remember planting it last year. But considering I don’t know the names of half of things I planted this year, it’s probably a good bet I did.
Per usual, I kept it simple, but felt a burst of creativity while I was working in the flower bed–something Ken would have appreciated. I thought I’d plant the bunch of impatiens in some kind of shape. Maybe a heart? Or was that too much? And while digging in the dirt that Ken had dug in–and that I had dug in the past two summers–I found this:
So, I planted this heart for him (not terribly recognizable, but hopefully it will grow into it):
I needed to balance it with another shape on the other side of the bed. I’d planned on a peace sign, but it ended up looking more like Mercedes logo. So, it’s just s circle. There comes a point after working for many hours that it just needs to be finished. I sort of snickered to myself as any other design ideas gave way to clumps or straight lines. Ken would have maintained a vision and pumped me up to help him see it through. But my way is okay for me. And it works. I like feeling okay with that. There was a time when I didn’t.
It felt more like my garden this year than ever–that I wasn’t just tending to it for someone unseen. Though in my heart of hearts (see what I did there?) it will never be just “my” garden. It will always be shared with the memories of Ken and all the friends and fun we had in our tiny back yard on the north side of Chicago.
The finished product: