by Anne James from New Westminster, BC
May 16, 15
My dad was an extraordinary gardener. He worked on his garden in his spare time but it was not a hobby; it was a way of life. Gardening was in his DNA.
Dad grew up on a patch of land in Italy. As a young man he helped with the farm: the planting, nurturing and harvesting. But as he worked he dreamed of more. And so, all alone, he set sail for a foreign land.
He met a beautiful woman. He asked her to be his wife. They had three energetic children, and he began his garden.
Summer in his garden, our garden, was special. Plants aligned in perfectly straight rows, growing full and hardy, the fruits and vegetables developing and changing colour.
The fresh scent of warm linen drying on the clothesline; the sweet taste of warm carrots pulled from the ground. Life doesn’t get much better than that. Unless it involves sticks of tart rhubarb dipped in sugar.
Everything flourished in Dad’s garden, but the tomato was the king. Envious neighbours would hover over the fence, muttering about the size and colour of my dad’s tomatoes. They would watch him carefully for hints of how to care for their own. People called him ‘the tomato whisperer’.
One year he attached clear glass bottles to the blooms of the pear tree.
The bottles acted like mini hot houses. Dad’s pears grew huge that year. When full grown, he carefully cut the stems leaving a large pear trapped in each glass bottle. He washed each bottle and the fruit in them and then filled them with brandy.
His invention provided Dad with hours of entertainment. He would offer visitors a drink and then ask them if they could figure out how he got the pear in the bottle. He reveled in the creative ideas of his guests.
Life in the garden felt endless.
But eventually the vitality of spring and the colours of summer would fade, and the crops would be ready for harvest. Dad was always happy to share.
Autumn also meant wine. Dad would invite friends and family to come over and help crush grapes.
As he aged, Dad was fortunate to have great neighbours and friends who would help with the big jobs.
But, like the summers he loved, Dad couldn’t hang on forever.
He passed away last year.
And I miss him. But I know where to find him. He is in every garden. And if I close my eyes, I can feel the warm breeze of youth on my face and just like that I am running through those vital summer days; head tossed back, laughing, singing, or running through the cool sprinkler, with the sweet memories and tastes that can only come from the earth.