Daily Archives: June 12, 2011

Garden Tales Because Forgetting Isn’t the Answer

I think my love affair with gardens started as a child enamored with dirt.
It didn’t matter where we lived, dirt was my friend.
You could dig dirt and turn it into roads and mountains and cities and caves.
You could add water to the dirt and turn it into something you could mold, change, create.
On a hot day, water added to dirt left a cool smushy mixture I’d stomp around in for hours.
In the summers I’d spend weeks with my grandparents and their dirt and their gardens. I loved that time.
It was a simple time, a time before we were all so connected, so busy.
Watching seeds turn to plants and plants turn to vegetables and fruits was fascinating to a kid.
Grandma and Grandpa spent hours in the garden. They always let us help.
Back then, I was a master gardener. I grew peas and corn and potatoes and beans and squash and tomatoes and onions and watermelon and more.
Today, I can’t grow much of anything.
A few years ago, I tried.
I had a gorgeous garden in the back yard, but the drought hit and the birds started attacking my tomatoes looking for a way to get to moisture.
We put netting up over the garden, thinking it would help. I guess it did. Unfortunately, it also killed the birds because they got caught in the netting.
I didn’t plant that garden. I just tended it.
Last year I spent hours in the garden. And killed it.
This year I decided to give up on the garden. But my husband bought some plants anyway. We have them in pots on the front porch. Maybe I’ll have more luck with that than with the gardens of my childhood
In my research for Honor and Lies, I learned a lot about plantation systems and dirt. They called an area that ran across the deep south the black belt. The soil there was black and rich and could grown anything. At least a million slaves were forced to work the land there.
Sometimes people like to romanticize the plantation age. They like to think of balls and gorgeous homes and chivalry instead of violence and death and forced servitude.
Honor and Lies is told through the eyes of young women. They get to think of the dirt as a place to play, a place to pretend. By the end they see they’re trapped in a society that won’t let them go just like those birds were trapped in the netting above my garden. I can’t imagine the lives the slaves led. I’m sure I didn’t capture the reality of the horribleness of that system.
Some people say the answer is to ignore our past, to push it away and pretend it didn’t exist. I disagree.