I’ve never been late on a deadline, but I damn near missed this one because I’ve been chasing butterflies and relaxing in my yard.
I am categorically against the existence of insects. Let me rephrase that: I was categorically against insects, but then I took the extra time I had this summer to plant a garden.
It started with three pots: one with celosia, an easy summer annual; another with corkscrew rush, or “curly grass,” as I like to call it; and finally, a pot with a citronella plant to ward off my worst summer enemy, the mosquito.
While transplanting these plants into their new pots, I made the mistake of turning on the radio in our storage room off the back porch. Repotting is a child-like pursuit — messy but enjoyable, and made even better by singing along with classic rock.
After repotting, I sat on the porch in a folding chair and looked out over the yard. It’s great — no grass and a patio created from salvaged brick and iron. It has a built-in flower box and a small strip of dirt perfect for planting, yet overgrown by English ivy. The privacy fence mirrors the ironwork on the patio. I’m struck by the landscaping we inherited from the former owner. I sit kicking myself because we’ve lived in the house long enough to outgrow it, but we haven’t spent enough time sitting on the porch enjoying our amazing yard.
Soon after my first three pots, I decided to try my hand at peppers and tomatoes. While I was at the store buying those, I included a dianthus (carnation) plant and a calla lily, the same eggplant color as my wedding flower. I bought the pots, the dirt and the feeding spikes.
I found myself reading about different types of gardens and expanding my plant collection to include coreopsis, guara, delphinium, colocasia, and hyssop. I started realizing that I had spent countless hours outside, digging and sweating, and that I’d coexisted with bugs; I realized that not only did I like being out there, but listening to music seems to make my plants happy, as well. My plants were growing like mad. My plants. I’ve never been able to grow anything, especially outside where the bugs could get me.
I decided to shake up the music as I began considering that my garden was a great place for butterflies. I’m sure getting the Led out is fine for most days, but the butterfly needs more traditional music. I turned to classical station WUOL (much to my neighbors’ chagrin — they really liked the classic rock), my favorite show being “Sunday Baroque.” It’s perfect for a garden swirling with butterflies.
True, this is the music of fancy people in complicated clothing and powdered wigs, but it also was the music that could drive its composers mad with the need to make it perfect. These composers did not take it lightly. I feel the same way about my garden.
I’ve expanded my repotting endeavors to include seeds that I share with friends, as well as the occasional root-cutting that I use to start new plants. If you choose to garden, you choose to be a steward of an ecosystem, and — like composing a piece of music — you are composing the environment that will nurture your soul no less than the creatures that live in your garden.
Watching my garden grow and finally getting to enjoy my yard, bugs and all, has made a big impression upon who I am and who I want to become. I spend time with WUOL and my garden to relax. It has given me something to nurture and a way to distract my overly busy brain. I have used time in the garden to heal from the year past that was, in many ways, personally destructive, except for the day I married The Boy.
My garden gives me what Baroque music must have given its listeners. I feel the colors of my flowers and the moods they have from day to day. I know the outside world is alive, and I feel that every time I put another well-researched plant in the ground, I’m doing my part to help. I’m even fine with the fact that I’m helping the bugs.
Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.