Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Andy's Garden Varieties

In San Miguel, December 2012.
I told my sister Andy, who is one of my biggest blog fans, that she should start a blog of her own.  She can call it “Andy's Garden Varieties,” because gardening is such an important part of her life, as it was our mother’s, and it is mine.

Andy, living in Tallahassee, Florida, all her adult life, has always started her garden ahead of the rest of us who live up North.

I remember her writing to me in February or March  to tell me she had planted lettuce and peas and some flowers.  We were in the midst of a blizzard.  It made me jealous to think of her digging in the soil and basking in the sun.  “Springtime comes to America through Tallahassee,” she’d say, telling me about the red buds, azaleas and dogwoods gracing Florida's capital. Meanwhile, up here in winterland, the crocuses weren’t even pushing up through the cold hard ground.

Since Andy can be, and is, in her garden most of the year,  "Garden Varieties” fits. Besides, it has so many meanings, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, the prosaic to the poetic.

You could write about a commonplace or ordinary moment, a politician’s garden-variety speech on a social issue, or a garden-variety but wonderful moment with a grandchild, like applauding a horribly out-of-tune elementary school band where kids aren’t even on the same page, or a  church or school play where the kids either remember or forget their lines and make us laugh.

You could talk about the variety of plants, fruits, vegetables and flowers in a garden, in your garden, in anyone's garden. How many varieties of roses are there? Of tomatoes or raspberries? Of lilies and fern?  How is our food grown, processed, shipped and cooked?  

How many varieties of human beings, places and ideas?  
You could riff about the paintings of Monet or Van Gogh or other artists you like. The vividly exotic flowers of  Gauguin, or the quiet domestic garden scenes of Mary Cassatt.  You could weave poetry and music in and out of your essays, add more diversity and wild exuberance to them. 

You could talk about "the seeds of change," from those planted by the indigenous peoples of America to those planted by Europeans in a new world, to those we have inherited from our parents and grandparents.  Loren used to say “I plant seeds” when he was talking about his environmental or political activism.   

You could talk about roots and foundations of gardens, of democracy, of reform, of everyday life, of ideas and movements.

Garden Varieties.  A great title for my sister’s blog-to-be.  Now if  only I can get her out of her garden to read this polemic, partly tongue-in-cheek, partly tribute to Andy’s creativity, partly a big sister’s goading, partly a big sister’s wishes for a little sister on  her birthday!     

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