I have just been lawn-clearing at my sister’s. We took a pair of clippers, longer than my forearm, to the invasive Australian Verbena, disturbed a small Nation-state of woodlice and chopped up a very old work table for firewood. My sister is good at things like this. Her’s is a working garden, no design planting or landscape shrubs here. Here garden is dinner, and income and sanity from the city-work. She loves it, with a regard that is, all at once, fierce and stubborn, abstract and spiritual and practical as pegs.
“Good of you to come over.” She says, leaning into the handsaw strokes as I brace the table-leg against our make-shift saw horse.
My sister is green. Not just thumbs or fingers, but green all over, patched with brown, like her garden. She is green-wristed, hauling out weeds, green-elbowed, leaning against the clippers, forcing the blades through a particularly stubborn verbena stem. Even the soles of her work-boots with the purple laces, are green. She presses her sole down against a joint, strength in her palms as she forces the two pieces of wood apart. The glue holding them together finally gives with a snap and she smiles.
My sister would have made a top-notch homesteader. All three of us, my sisters and I, grew up with the stories: My side of the mountain, little house on the prairie, famous five, but my eldest sister lives them the best. She is an eco-warrior. Not in the sense of chaining herself to amazon trees or hanging banners from oil-rigs, but because she fights to know the land. Even in her fenced in, boxed in, built on and under and all around, suburban garden, she can still hear it singing.
We work in the sun, and the sky, and from time to time dust our palms free from splinters.
When we are done, I grin at her. “S’a bag of wood that’s saved you buying.”
She nods, “Maybe more than one.”
I look at her then and shake my head, me with my slick apartment block home, and my city-ness that jangles about me. Me, who cannot keep the aphids off her potted pepper plant. I look at my big sister and I say, “I couldn’t do it, you know. What you do here in the green.”
She shrugs and hauls out the wheelbarrow, “Gardening is just starting again. Always.”
And we smile at each other and I go home to my street light, and my delivery truck rumbles and my potted pepper plant.
I can’t garden, not much, but starting again is something I understand.
For those of you who have read this blog before, you will know that this post is disjoint, isolated from the last unfinished series, the first real communication in a long time of quiet.
Gardening is starting again.