The blessing of an unwilling gift

This is the first time in a long time that we have moved to a new home without a single plant from our previous garden.

We’ve driven herbs and flowers on all-day drives from Connecticut to Ohio. We started a garden from scratch in Connecticut from our garden in Vermont. And our family in Vermont dug up their own plants to fill our garden a few weeks after we moved in to our first home in Vermont.

When we moved to Columbus, the last thing I wanted to do on moving day was to dig holes for eight different flowers in dusty, rocky soil of our front garden bed.

However, there was something familiar and comforting to transport the flowers that we had received from family in Vermont, transplanted to our apartment in Connecticut, and then brought with us to Ohio.

For our latest move to Kentucky at the peak of summer heat in the midst of finishing a graduate program and powering through a freelance business with two small kids, we chose to part ways with our flowers and everything else in our vegetable garden.

Even worse, our landlord changed his mind about the raised bed garden that I had painstakingly constructed.

The blessing of an unwilling giftThe garden that had become my sanctuary for restoration and renewal and filled our table with greens all summer had to go because he wanted to sell the house we’d rented for the past five years.

We planted garlic last fall, thinking we would be able to harvest it before moving, but the timing didn’t work. We dug every last bulb up with the help of friends and shipped it off to their garden.

We had flourishing kale and lettuce in the garden, so we harvested big bunches of each for our own meals and gave the rest away to friends. We gave away boxes of kale plants to friends.

Our grape vine and blackberries had to go too. We dug ditches around each plant, yanking out their roots and dropping them into garbage bags for friends.

After a few weeks of giving away plants, dirt, and wood from the raised beds, I scattered grass seeds into the rich dirt left behind from our garden.

As I watered the bland little seeds scattered in our garden each night, I remembered the day that I unloaded the dirt from our station wagon into the yard. I had been delighted to have less lawn to mow.

Grass has been my nemesis ever since I was old enough to mow it. Now I was helping it reclaim my garden.

The blessing of an unwilling giftProcessing the loss of this quiet, sacred space that had produced so much food for our family and friends, I looked for perspective on leaving so many flowers and vegetables behind.

What is the point of so much work if you aren’t able to actually hold onto it and enjoy it?

After much soul-searching and prayer, I arrived at something that felt like an answer, if not a resolution to my loss: the garden is a gift, but it’s not my gift to keep.

It’s true that the garden started out as a gift to myself, my family, and a few friends here and there when harvests grew plentiful. However, in light of our family’s move, the garden became an enduring gift for our friends, some of it for the summer, some of it for years to come.

My sense of loss, though very real, was ultimately self-centered. I had cultivated something that hadn’t just provided us with food over the years. I had provided a gift to many of our friends.

Their children learned about transplanting grape vines, blackberries, and garlic. They found the plants that had re-seeded from last year in our alley and took them home in paper cups.

Several gardens were filled up for the summer after dividing up my garden.

I suppose I had a more dramatic hand off in mind for the garden.

I imagined our landlord bringing in a new couple to the home after we moved out. I thought of them surveying the raised beds, the wood chip paths, the flowers, and the clever fence system that kept out squirrels.

I imagined us taking our berry bushes off to some new home where our kids would learn to stuff their faces while playing games in the yard.

The former will never happen and the latter will have to wait.

The blessing of an unwilling giftWhat I was forced to do was actually better.

We blessed our friends with something precious, and it’s a shame that I didn’t think of that right from the start.

By sacrificing my garden, I left much better gifts behind that helped me see the way that I clutch my blessings, hold them back from others, and even deprive myself of the joy of seeing others flourish with the fruits of my hard work.

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3 Comments

  1. katy

    Gosh, I recall doing this 8 years ago and it still makes me sad. The beautiful garden we had was shared with many neighbors and friends, but it was necessary to move to sell our home. Best of luck on your new adventure and I hope you have plenty of room to start a new garden to share!

  2. Liz M

    What a timely piece for my heart. We are experiencing the exact same situation this summer. We are moving from Colorado to Tennessee in a month. That’s right about the time every tomato, pepper, cucumber, and squash will be exploding in all its harvest glory. We didn’t know this move was coming when I planted the garden in the spring. I’ve had the same fantasy of our landlords finding renters who swoon over the garden and ask to meet me so I can “hand over the reigns” and give them all my tips. It makes me sadder than I like to admit when I think about leaving my garden or having to rip it apart before we leave. Thank you for putting words to my process and for the beautiful perspective of what the gift of what we grow is really intended to be. Thank you, and God bless you and your family in your move.

  3. Missy Robinson

    As a fellow gardener, I can share that the gift of your plants will be an investment for years. Your friends will treasure knowing from where the plants came, and remember the hand-off and the companionship which brought it to pass. One garden is multiplied into many…that is wonderful1

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