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Tell Your Story: Chris & Leslie

We inherited this garden with our house. We bought it in the winter, January 2016, before we could see the garden in its full splendor; it was a lot of bare branches and brown leaf mulch between the bark and stone paths. But we could recognize in those bare branches the shape of fig trees and blackberry vines, raspberry bushes, and the first green leaves of strawberries. The house is across the street from the Zen temple where Chris and I met and have practiced meditation for the last six years. (We’re getting married there this summer). We imagined hearing the call to meditation from our kitchen and cutting flowers from our garden for the altars, and knew this was our house.

I wrote a letter to the former owner promising that we would be caretakers for the garden he and his wife had built. It’s how I still feel about the garden, even though it’s technically ours now. The garden has it’s own claim on the space. If we nurture and protect it, it will give back, with fruit, flowers, and shady green canopies. When I’m pruning, turning compost, or setting up a copper tape perimeter to keep slugs out of my garden boxes, I think a lot about the Michael Pollan book, “The Botany of Desire”, where he argues that just as much as we have bent plants to our will with the development of agriculture, they have bent us to theirs. We cultivate and propagate them, protect them from predators and disease, and in return they feed us.

This spring has been full of wonderful surprises. Everyday new green buds poke their heads up from beneath the carpet of dead leaves, from the sudden blooms of crocuses in early February, to the discovery of asparagus in one of our garden beds just last week. And we have planted our first additions to the garden: kale and lettuces for me - they always do well in the Willamette Valley - and brussel sprouts for Chris. The brussels are his favorite and a bit of a gamble because they like a little more sun than we have. They look happy so far though. 

As the weather gets warmer we can spend whole Sundays in the garden together, and it’s my favorite time. Chris has been patiently digging up the crab grass entangled in the roots of our plum tree. I do better with less delicate work, like cutting back the honeysuckle vines at our front gate, a task which an experienced gardener told us was, “nearly impossible to screw up.”

I’m loving how gardening makes me attend to the world in a whole new way. Suddenly I’m very aware of where water pools when it rains, the path the sun takes across the sky, and where the shadow of the apple tree falls when its leaves are full. And I have a new fondness for a number of things I used to feel were nuisances, like bees and rain. When I found bees were swarming next to the blueberries outside our bedroom window, I did a little dance of excitement. I suppose the garden is bending me to it’s will.

I think we’ll try houseplants next. The living room still looks a little bare, and there’s a good looking snake plant at the nursery downtown.

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