My great gramma's garden with me.
When I started my first garden, I asked my Dad what to do. "What should I plant? What grows here?" "Just try everything you want he said, and then you'll know." I did what he said, and grew everything I wanted. A lot didn't overwinter or produce fruit or flowers where I lived, but it felt so fulfilling to get it in the ground; to see the big bushy green everywhere that summer. I wore sunscreen that first time I planted, the not-nice-scented kind, the kind that smelled like 20 years ago sunblock, and now whenever I smell it, I'm on my hands and knees again, digging little holes, and putting in seeds next to the fence in that first yard.
I asked my Dad once why he got into gardening, and as I remember it (I could be manufacturing this memory mind you) he said his Grandpa Earley always had a big garden. His own parents, when I knew them at least, employed a gardener for their yard, and never had any kind of vegetable garden or fruit trees, but he'd connected with his grandparents. I knew my Great Grandma Earley, and by herself she'd still maintained a decent garden in her 70's and maybe early 80's. She had a banana tree growing in her San Diego yard!
So my Dad always had a garden. We moved a few times as I was growing up, and he'd take whatever he had and made a garden: a huge, incredible garden with every fruit tree you could think of in some places. Have you ever eaten a loquat? a persimmon? a pomegranite? a fig? they all grew in our yard.
I read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal Vegetable Miracle" this week, and one section really spoke to me. OK, a lot of it spoke to me, but this one part about the "dia de los muertos" brought a little aha! moment for me:
"People's sadness was not for the departed, but for themselves, and could be addressed through ritual visiting called Xantolo, an ordinary communion between the dead and the living. Mexican tradition still holds that Xantolo is always present in certain places and activities, including wild marigold fields, the cultivation of corn, the preparation of tamales, and pan de muerto. Interestingly, farmers markets are said to be loaded with Xantolo."
The author goes on about the food tradition and how it connects the generations, but I feel it in the garden. I come from a long line of gardeners, and gardening brings us together now --with my Dad and me it's one of our strongest connections, and it's nice to think of my great grandparents, and their parents and THEIR parents all going through the same motions through the centuries -getting that satisfaction from creating a personal oasis, and growing their own food. Why then wouldn't my garden be a good place for xantolo? I've got the field of wild marigolds. In the last two years the marigolds have started to take over. I've let them --loving their bright bright sunny orange-yellow, and their strength and thrift. They reseed themself with a vengeance, creating new, healthy plants everywhere there's a bit of water. Almost half of our 1/3 acre is marigolds now I'd estimate (outside of the vegetable planters). Why wouldn't the peace I feel in my garden in late summer have a little to do with a few ghosts visiting and hanging out with me? This is the kind of place I'D want to go if I were a ghost, and my grands and great-grands had to be something like me and my Dad. I'd like to think so anyway.