When I was twelve or so, my parents gave me a tiny plot of land. To be fair, I’d begged for it. We were living in North Carolina at the time, and we had an outdoor clothesline, and I dreamed of tending a little circular garden around the bottom of one of the poles. My parents told me I could do exactly that, and said they’d buy the seeds.
For weeks, in church, I would sketch out plans for my garden on the back of that Sunday’s bulletin. The problem was that I didn’t actually know many types of plants. I could only decide on three things: I wanted a morning glory vine to crawl up the pole in the center and I wanted alyssum around the edges—fluffy white clouds of alyssum—and I wanted decorative stones surrounding the whole thing. As far as what else I could plant there, I was lost. Vegetables? Colorful flowers? But what color? And how?
Our yard in North Carolina was full of beautiful plants. There were the huge blueberry bushes, lavish representations of another person’s careful planning. There was a dogwood tree that I would climb so that I could hang out at the top among the white blooms, our state’s official flower, and spy on the world. The crabapple tree was less exciting to climb, but you could perch up there and call down at your siblings, or gossip with your best friend. And in the spring, hyacinths would pop up in secret places, under bushes. I was in awe of their scent. I got a disposable camera and took their portraits.
As with a lot of things, the planning of the garden was the fun part. Eventually, though, I started to plant, and as I recall, the garden never really took off the way it did in my mind’s eye. I didn’t have the patience to wait for the scraggly little seedlings to turn into lush plants—I was, after all, about to be a teenager. And so the garden never really became a garden, at least not the garden that I was hoping for. But I never forgot about it. I just tucked the concepts—all the little models, drawn in pencil on the backs of bulletins—into my heart, to be worked on some other time.