There was a blog post scheduled for yesterday morning, but well, life got in my face in a rather major way and I couldn't finish it. I think I will post it later in the week probably as a slightly different post than originally intended, but hey, I'll just see what happens. I am pretty sanguine, but I am not quite yet in a place where I am ready to make promises. Yesterday was a bit of an emotional roller coaster of a day.
I remember how just a few days ago, I reviewed preliminary ideas for future landscaping. A good part of it further in the future than I might like, it turns out, simply because of the way I am staging things. But I realize that I have made the right decisions for me, and in the conflict between my desire for instant gratification and uncertainty about what I actually want and/or need, time is my ally. Anything good is worth waiting for. I posted this collage of plans, hinting at where I hope we are going, on Instagram. Apologies if you have seen them. At the time, I had no intention of blogging about garden plans.
I simply planned on coming to my construction site, talking to my house, watering the front plantings, and communing, consoling, comforting and communicating with this place I call home. I hoped the quiet peaceful bits of sanctuary I find in my gardens, my space, the space I share with this house, and yes I do think that each house has its own unique needs, would sooth my soul even as so much is torn up and I dream about the future.
That was before Monday afternoon, when I drove by the house to get mail. Apparently the landscape crew had been there on Saturday. As I learned later, when I irately spoke to the head of the landscape company, they had been there with instructions to do light weeding and to remove vines from the roses and hydrangeas. In the perfectly understated terms of my landscape designer, (not at all related to the landscape maintenance company that perpetrated the crime) speaking from a position of greater detachment than I was able to muster, they "over performed". My initial reactions were not so kind, and still, although I acknowledge "over performance" is indeed what happened, the wound itself remains raw.
Luckily the first thing I saw was the side bed, where some weeds had been cleared out, as had, unfortunately a lovely tree peony, "High Noon" which I had planted this spring and which was settling in beautifully. Some of the iris crostata "Tennessee white" are also missing, a plant that I had been looking for since I moved to Tennessee and only found this past spring. I hope the nursery has them again next year, as they are one of my favorite small iris varieties. Today, with a heavy heart but cooler head, I can see the iris are dying back as it is August after all, and if one was not paying much attention, one might confuse them for crab-grass. More likely someone was paying no attention at all, and pulled up peony and iris indiscriminately.
But then I looked up. It looked like someone had just taken a chainsaw across all my shrubs. Everything was hacked off, all the new growth on the hydrangeas. The undergrowth was ripped out, including hellebores. It looked like devastation; it felt like violation. The arching oak leaf hydrangeas by my private little courtyard had been stripped back to twigs, the camellias slashed back by more than half. The ground laid bare, the branches stripped of growth, shrubs and trees hacked away, in ways I would never have eve dreamed of stripping them, denying them their essential nature. It felt as if everything I believed and loved about this garden had been deemed worthless and destroyed.
Will these little twigs, all that remains of one oak leaf hydrangea, come back? I don't expect I'll see much in terms of blossoms next year. At least there are still some leaves. In a few years, when my garden is full and lush again, I may look back and laugh. Not so much now. It is not about the plants. They are gone. What is left will survive or it will not. What is done cannot be undone. I am actually calm about that aspect of the situation. Plants may be replaced, or not. What is lost is lost; what survives will be stronger, life and beauty will win in the end.
But that is my brain. My heart remains knotted in outrage, in a sense of having been violated. My space was brutally assaulted. The words, slash, pillage, maim, keep echoing through my thoughts, although my thoughts are admittedly calmer than they were. I spoke civilly but angrily. to the owner of the landscape company. I really see no point in using brutal language, although I felt like doing so. He saw the problem. He apologized. We both acknowledged that my anger was justified. As the day progressed, I slowly relinquish the idea that I should hang whoever slashed my shrubs by the thumbs in the sun.
No, I am not normally a fan of torture. But I also accept that we have to accept our emotions. Our history, our literature, even our holy liturgies are full fo it, full of violence and outrage. To deny its existence is to deny part of what it means to be human. Equally so to act out our rage. No, I will not collect eye for an eye, a chain-saw welding hand for a garden. There are healthier ways to deal with rage, anger, hurt.
It may be only a garden, but I admit that I have not been so angry since a hapless young man broke up with my (step)daughter on the eve of her move across state-lines, giving up everything she had built to be with him.....the coward chickening out at the last minute. At the time I was in full mother-bear mode and I shocked myself. For the first time I fully understood why someone would be so consumed with rage and hate that they would truss a person up, tie them to the bumper of a car, and drag them down the road. Am I proud of those thoughts? Not really. But I acknowledge that I felt them, even though I would never have acted on them. I felt a similar total outrage Monday, and even yesterday morning. I am not going to deny that I felt anger, outrage even. It is healthy neither to deny emotions nor to give in to them.
But here is the thing. As I wandered around my yard, as I gently pulled a vine out of the Illicium that was planted this spring, and which was thankfully missed by the grounds crew, I realized something else. Whoever cut up my garden did not think they were doing personal harm. I am sure they knew they were not doing what they were supposed to be doing. As I stood there, I could imagine it in my mind. They started with the roses, They are far from the house and were not damaged. But then, working next to the house one could see in the windows, see that all the furniture was gone. I can imagine it now. They wanted to finish, they wanted to do other things, perhaps they even thought they are doing a good thing, preparing the house for a future occupant. Perhaps they simply thought no one cared. I am not excusing them, but I can attempt to understand.
Today, I am not as angry, although I will probably still well up with tears next time I go to the house. I am sanguine about the future. The garden will recover, and this may even be a small boon to the construction timing. Because the foundation plantings have been butchered, it is actually easy right now for the contractors to get into the beds and dig new drains for the downspouts, to fix a drainage issue that would otherwise have waited until winter. Does pragmatism negate the horror? No. But it is best to move forward, not denying, because that is the path to death, but acknowledging and moving on.
Today I will look at the bouquet of flowers I brought home from the farmer's market. I will continue to settle in to my apartment. I will walk and listen to music and read a book. Tomorrow I will go back to the house and move a small camellia that needs to be relocated before excavation begins. I will place it in the front yard where I can water it, where I can be reminded that hope is always present, even though I don't always feel all that hopeful. If I give hope a chance, it will worm its way back into my heart.