Fo(u)nd memories

Reared at the confluence of two ditches

We lived there for nine years. I don’t see the house. I barely see the yard. My mind always goes straight to the tree lined ditch that separated our yard from the garden and field behind us. Over time the very look of the ditch evolved. It began as an intimidating scary place filled with mysterious plants and creatures. It ended up as a place that held no fear or mystery — it became my domain.

Writing this makes me think of those times and places in new and symbolic ways that I have never considered. Safety and comfort in the line that separates the house and the yard from the garden. Hiding out someplace where no one but me cared to spend any time.

My mind goes back to that ditch and the big open place where it met the drainage from the yard and the garden. On one side of the intersection was a “cliff”, all of two feet high. Diagonally across was a smooth narrow rise tightly squeezed between two trees. I rode my bike flying off the cliff and turning up the rise just in time to avoid hitting the trees. I looped around and crossed the ditch using the sturdy mock suspension bridge that my dad and I had built and flew and rose again. I would just serpentine my way through this circuit all afternoon, jumping and climbing and riding. Looking back now it feels like the only freedom I knew and I never grew tired of it.

I hated working in the garden as a kid. It was torture to me. Whenever I worked in the garden, I felt like I was being punished. And sometimes I was. Unfortunately my dad had a great knack for taking the fun out of situations that could have easily been enjoyable. It was a philosophy of threaten first — enjoy and thank…never.

After my parents split up, it was a long time before I turned the soil again. The one funny thing was that I always kept a compost pile — no garden but a compost pile and I had this really nice hoe that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew would come in handy some day.

Then one day I just realized that I knew all this stuff about gardening. I didn’t even know or think about the fact that I knew this. I just started planting more and more things — flowers, shrubs, trees, vegetables. What once had seemed like torture was now something I couldn’t stop doing. And I knew just what to do. Things don’t always turn out just like I want but there is always a lot of learning from mistakes involved in gardening — just like any other worthwhile task.

I used to hate working in the garden because of the way my father made me work there. Now that he is gone, I work in the garden to be with my father. The garden is where I can always find him. Standing beside me, guiding me as I plant and pull weeds and check the plants to make sure they are doing okay.

So now I have my own house, which does not represent pain to me. I have my own garden which is not a  place of imprisonment and punishment. The old house and garden fade away, the image in my mind dims and blurs and is not missed or longed for. The new versions are clear and beautiful and fresh to me every day. Instead my mind now goes back to the one place that was mine back then. It was the place that no one else gave a second thought to. When I was very young it scared me but as I grew older I tamed it on my own terms and it became a place to rest and hide and feel safe and above all, have fun and be free.

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