Tending, Tender, Blooms.

June 22, 2011

Jet Black Hollyhock from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

About a month ago I started writing a column for my home-town weekly paper, The Post Dispatch. Combining ruminations on folklife and grass-roots action, the column is an exploration of themes such as tradition, community, stories, human rights, sustainability, and positive community-based change. I’ve been calling it the “Seed and the Story” for reasons both literal and metaphorical.

This week’s column touched on the current status of my garden, and concepts of gardening and people in general, and so I thought I’d share a few photos of that garden here.  I recently discovered my camera has a foliage setting, which has opened up a whole new world of opportunities!

I know lately that this thing has turned into a gardening blog of sorts.  That’s because I filter my realizations and grief through plants, especially flowers.  And the last few days I’ve been thinking about fragility and the people I love.

When I first started this blog about grief, mothering and the magical layers of daily life, I decided on the word “tending” partially because of the word’s garden implications and that sense of waiting and watching it seems to suggest.  I don’t know about you, but a lot of my so-called work in the garden is really just walking around staring at things, looking to see what little, or big, changes occurred while I was busy running errands, cooking dinner, breaking up a toddler fight, or taking a shower.  Similarly, this blog was originally intended as a way for me to kind of walk around staring at my thoughts if you will, something akin to tending to the pain, the bitterness, the joy and confusion while also being in awe of the growth of my children, their magic, their wide-eyed acceptance of mystery.  In the end I just wanted to  discuss grief with honesty, hoping on some very basic level it might help others find their own unique ways of walking through their own grief and confusion.

I also like the word tending because it evokes it’s cousin, “tender.”  The word tender has a ton of definitions,  but it’s this one I like the best: ” demanding careful and sensitive handling.”

No matter what books or websites you read about grieving, there is one constant: Grief has no set timeline.  We cycle in and out of the so-called five stages over and over again in the least organized fashion.  There’s no correct way to grieve, and there’s no point at which you should be done. It’s a life-long process.


I  have a dear friend who  is grieving right now, and I don’t understand why things happen the way they do.  She’s helped me to remember how fragile life is, how tender we all are, and how much it matters to tell stories of loss, for a host of reasons both emotional and practical.  Her bravery in telling her story and wanting to let women know how to seek out better care during a miscarriage is so powerful.  Words fail me when I try to convey how I feel about her, her family, and the little one they’ve lost.


In my own experience grief ebbs and flows, takes on both surprising and familiar forms, and brings out both my best and worst characteristics as a mother, wife,  friend, and human.  Sometimes it helps me relate to others; sometimes it makes me feel utterly distant toward, and skeptical of, everyone.  Grief is an all-consuming activity, at least initially. And at some point I started to realize that I’ll never really be done grieving.  Like all those grieving books told me would happen, I’m learning to live with my grief.  In this life I’m not ever going to get to see my mom with my children. I know that on a deep level now. Tending to it doesn’t make it go away, of course.  But I’ve found that there’s some peace in openly acknowledging that it won’t ever go away and then handling that realization with care and sensitivity.

So, disregarding all attempts at meaningful transitions,  here’s some more pictures of my garden.

I’d love to see photos of your garden if you want to share.

Isabellina Zinnia from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Planted in honor of one of my best friend's daughters.

Morning glories make their way up the old bed frame I found in a neighbor’s trash pile.

Three different kinds of maters.

Lots of stuff.

Snapdragon. Red was my mother's favorite color. It's mine too.

Dad's carnations are doing real well.

Sometimes I call my children petunia monkeys. I am not entirely sure why. But I planted a lot of petunias this year for that reason.

Hello Thai watermelon vines!

Purslane: It's pretty and you can eat it.

Bending toward the sun.

Front steps.

One Response to “Tending, Tender, Blooms.”

  1. […] Want to see more photos of the garden? Check them out here at Tending the Bittersweets. […]

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