“From roots in dark places, we grow towards the light.” This is what I imagine my nascent seedlings are murmuring to me as I watch over them, rejoicing in their daily growth and the occasional flowers which are showing their faces.
I’ve always loved being around plant life. It must be genetic – passed down along the motherline. My grandmother maintained a wonderfully varied garden around her homestead in the midst of the family’s farm, with everything from herbs to roses. She actually used to make lilly pilly jam, an incredible feat of patience, given the size of those tiny fruit. (Or perhaps she made a jelly – which would make more sense, as you sieve out the pulp and the seeds; I can’t remember.)
Mum is onto her third ‘mega-farm’, one for every house she’s lived in for an extended length of time. It lies in the rain shadow of a range of hills, so it is a true labour of love to keep the herb beds, veggie patches (plural!), fruit trees, terraced flowerbeds, lavender hedges and succulent displays healthy and flourishing.
I’ve spent far more of my live moving around than she has. The one home my partner and I did both own and spend many years in, I built up a terraced native garden in the front yard and established a veggie patch out back, though that was levelled when a neighbour’s dog somehow entered the back yard and engaged our own canine friend in a destructive battle frenzy. Seriously – my veggie patch was destroyed! I came home from work and each plant was laid down, amid pressed, flattened earth. Unbelieveable. So mostly I have invested my love and care in various pots which travel with us: I have one potted palm which has been with me seventeen years. When we’re going to be in one place for a little while, I plant out a bed or two.
Right now I have a little veggie patch starting up, and a flower bed. It’s unusual for me to bother with flowering annuals: I more usually garden for food or form, rather than colour; but something in me craved the easily beautiful, this time round. Also, the beds need raising. They slope down towards the fence. I have been creating the necessary soil from household waste in compost bins, but still more is needed before they are flat or, ideally, slightly elevated. The annuals will fill the space nicely in the meantime.
There is much in gardening which is analogous to living with depression. For a start, it’s likely that I inherited more than an interest in gardening from my forebears – but I don’t like to dwell on that. The symbolism of a living being starting its life surrounded by the pressing dark, but learning to draw nourishment for it, struggling to overcome the strictures of a shell-case and finally bursting into sunlight and green growth and beauty – this I love. I can meditate on that image for hours.
Sometimes I just go and stand, staring, at my little plants. I might bend down to touch a leaf or adjust the angle of a flowerhead, but often I simply gaze at them. Peace settles upon me. I feel grounded, happy.
From roots in dark places we truly do grow towards the light.