36 Edward Street
I’m not sure what I expected. She died a few months ago. I had been back to her house on the day of the funeral. I had to bite my lip to stop myself crying then. I managed to keep my composure, however thinly veiled. I returned with my mother in spring. The garden was so beautiful it broke my heart. It knocked me over for days. I am still limping and I’m surprised.
Somehow I forgot that plants don’t just stop when their gardener stops gardening. Quite the opposite. Euphorbias were popping up in cracks in the pathway – I’m sure Granny would not have allowed them such freedom. A sea of calendulas marched boisterously through the vegetable garden, their bright orange flowers undimmed by loss. There would be spinach and bean seedlings planted in there by now. In rows, of course, with bare earth in between. Not a weed in sight on Granny’s watch.
She is gone but her garden is in full bloom. She would have been enjoying it so much now, I know that. I guess this is where the pain lies. Her hand is everywhere yet she is not there.
We shared a love of plants, my grandmother and I. Every time I would visit, Granny would take me on a tour of the garden. We would discuss the behavior of various plants. She would speak of them with such wonder. As if every tiny little flower, new bud or fruit was a blessing. She was 90, she had spent many years in the garden but somehow still managed to sustain such joy.
One of her regular laments over the last couple of years was that she could only garden for half an hour a day. She got too tired if she did any more.
She told my mother before she died that she had started feeling unwell after overdoing it in the garden, just a few days earlier. But, how she enjoyed it, she said. I guess that was one of the last things she did.
Grannys’ garden has been one of my favourite gardens since I was a child. I will never forget the wonder of seeing a carpet of sweet peas growing up her colourbond fence, digging around in the strawberry patch, or sneaking under the house during games of hide and seek. To see it in full bloom, without her, was overwhelming.
Grannys garden was Granny. It still is in a way, but then it isn’t. It will evolve and change, her hand will become less obvious but it will remain. I remember going to my aunt’s garden in Leura, many years after she had passed away and the tiny handmade bird feeders, sandstone edged pathways and winding rock walls were still there. Instantly I was 10 years old, exploring the wild bush garden at the end of Sublime Point Road. Auntie Mollie was still there. I was shocked, pleased, and saddened. A garden is quite a legacy.
I suppose this is where the truth lies. Like gardens, people evolve. They are born, they grow, they wither and they die. But what you touch, what you nurture, and what you love lives on.
Life. It starts and it ends but in some ways it never just starts and it never just ends.
There is nothing clear cut about it. When we are born, we are coming from somewhere, and when we die we don’t just go out with everything we started with, we leave behind a legacy of our love, our energy and our passion.
Granny left behind so much. Wisdom, strength, joy, love. And its all still there, in the modest, newly unkempt garden at 36 Edward Street.