I’ve been a gardener most of my life. The three people that instilled this love of growing things in me were my mother and godfather and a former next door neighbor who Mom was good friends with. Mom was mostly into growing flowers in and outside of the house. My godfather grew roses (which he won awards for) and had an extensive vegetable garden. Mrs. V. the next door neighbor, could grow anything. She grew all kinds of flowers and some veggies.
While many of the techniques and knowledge that I gained from them helped me along my gardening path, I had to learn a lot of new stuff when I moved to Calgary. The climate is much colder in the wintertime and much more variable in the warmer months. The fickleness of springtime can sometimes lead to a total loss of one’s potential seasonal crops if they are caught in a cold and/or unseasonable spring.
The two times in my life that gardening has proven to be a real sanity saver are when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and in 2020 when the world faced the Covid 19 pandemic. Gardening during these times gave me a sense of control when all seemed out of control. Feeling the energy from the ground as I sat or kneeled when I planted the seeds calmed me. The warmth from the sun on my head and shoulders massaged me in no way that any masseuse could.
With both times my ability to travel was limited so I knew that I had to find things to do at home. Not being content with activities that didn’t have some kind of “work” element attached to them, I knew that gardening would help with that. The exercise from the physical work strengthens my muscles, the vitamin D from the sun boosts my mood better than any antidepressant ever could.
After a gardening session I often sit in my swing on the back deck with a cool drink and take in the scene around me. Just this afternoon I watched a mother sparrow and her not quite totally fledged little one land on my fence so that she could feed him/her. A mother robin with a worm in her beak paused on my fence on her way back to her nest. A grey squirrel chased a magpie while running along the top of a neighbour’s fence all the while screaming with a mouthful of food. A family of six young magpies who can now finally fly properly flit between the trees, squawking at each other. Their sibling spats usually involve food as their parents have now left them to fend for themselves.
After a rather raucous start in the spring with all the birds declaring their love for each other and staking out their claims for nesting sites, all is much quieter now because most of the birds are raising their young and want to keep them safe by not revealing the whereabouts of the nest.
In another month or so, my garden will start to produce in earnest, and I will be pressed to keep up with all the bounty by canning, freezing and pickling things. At the same time the last few fledglings will be learning to fly and the birds that normally are in the mountains will return. I notice the seasons change not only by my garden and the weather, but by the birds as well.
The garden and the birds were not affected by my cancer diagnosis nor by the covid 19 pandemic. Life for them goes on as the seasons change.