Sanctuary

Was working in the garden yesterday when my new neighbor came outside. We said “hi” and then she said something so sweet. “Your yard is just gorgeous. Like a sanctuary.”

I wiped a dirt-crusted hand over my sweaty brow and said thanks. Even though it was a nice thing to say, and good to hear, the truth is that my garden is more a place of hard work than a sanctuary. At least this early in the summer.

If I’m not deadheading faded blooms, I’m pulling weeds. Or, as was the case yesterday, moving a barely established bed of hollyhocks to a new spot because the place I’d planted the seeds in a couple years ago isn’t working anymore. The flowers got too big and abundant and gorgeous and they screened the underground sprinkler from hitting all its marks. Hence, brown lawn and a patch of dry herbs. Dry herbs belong in the pantry, not in the ground.

So anyway, I was doing some earth-moving yesterday with my trusty Bulldog shovel, and it was hot, and I was sweating, and when I finished I was physically exhausted. And my transplanted hollyhocks looked exhausted, too. This is not the ideal time of year to transplant mature blooms. But it had to be done. I watered the flowers and hoped for the best.

All day I kept peeking out to that spot in the garden. Would the hollyhocks survive? They’re hardy, tenacious flowers. I had found a spot with the right amounts of sun and shade. I had prepared the soil. I had been careful with the roots. But all day long the green stalks drooped. They’d been just about to flower, and now I wonder if they ever will.

I’m often struck by the notion that gardening is a lot like writing. I’m always, for example, revising my garden. And if I let it, if I stop sweating long enough to enjoy it, I know that writing is my sanctuary.