Gaia Guided: Thoughts on Pagan Family Life

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Something like Rebirth

I finally got out into the garden today. It was warm enough that I could even turn over the dirt, fold in compost, plant some homegrown seedlings that had been waiting for ages at a shot at getting outdoors. While I gardened, I did a lot of talking to my friend, Trish. This is noteworthy only because Trish has been dead for 17 years now. She passed away just before her 22nd birthday. A little over a year prior to that, she asked a friend and me to join her for some late night coffee at a nearby Jersey diner and there’s where she told us. Leukemia. She didn’t have long.


At 21, I was ill prepared to really process her words, though I’d grown up in hospitals watching my sister get Cystic Fibrosis care. In our booth at the Sage Diner that night, Tricia looked me in the eye and told me I better go and do all the big things I was always talking about doing. I had no doubt that I would. The thought that something could deprive me of my chance to do big things was terrible. Tricia’s news was terrible. The only thing that ameliorated the horror just a little was that Tricia herself had no big plans. Trish was a confirmed homebody. She loved her family. She loved our little blue collar town. And she loved her garden.


Before she passed, Trish did some traveling but mostly she stayed at home and worked in her yard. My overweening ego found it hard to understand Tricia’s decision to spend her last days fussing over her hydrangeas. Really though, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Gardening was her passion and Trish was always trying to talk about it with someone. The trouble was that most teenagers are not up to debating the finer points of bonsai maintenance or what to do about much loved tender perennials. When we went to England and Ireland together on our high school trip, she alone was not desperate to get into pubs. Instead, it was like she’d gone to Ireland just to check out the peat.


Obviously there are lots of reasons why I wish Trish was still here. I wish she could’ve met my kids. I wish she could’ve read my poetry books and known that I’ve always tried to make good on that promise to her. But maybe most of all, I wish she was here so we could at last talk plants, just like she’d wanted to all along but I wouldn’t listen. I think Trish would be proud of the gardener I’ve become.


What would you do, Trish, I wondered as I planted a pot of mini-roses in my front yard today. Teeny, delicate and blood red, these mini roses are beautiful and eye-catching but I’m worried about them. I don’t know what they’ll do when the temperature dips down at night. I had to get them out of my house though. Beautiful though they are, I couldn’t have them front and center in my kitchen anymore.


I got the mini rose plant at aunt’s funeral last week. Her death was sudden, a suicide. The right words about it are still far beyond me but it seemed important to get the plant into the ground as soon as possible, as soon as it was safe. They are vibrant, these little roses, each lush bud a bursting bloom. As the mini-rose plant sat in my kitchen I thought how strange it was, to take home such a radiantly alive plant from a funeral of a life ended too soon. It didn’t make sense but then nothing did. Looking at the mini roses on my kitchen counter, I thought of my mom’s words after visiting a relative with terminal cancer: “It was hard watching him try so hard to stay alive when here my sister didn’t want to live.” Her comment made me think of Trish and that’s when I knew the rose plant had to go outside, that it was time.


My first daffodil of the season opened the day after my aunt took her life. I looked at it and before I could stop myself I thought, if one she could’ve held out for one more day! Depression doesn’t work like that of course, doesn’t stop in its tracks because the spring flowers are finally open. If anything, depression is probably the opposite, is life with only one gray and unrelenting season.


As I stood looking at my mini roses this afternoon, preparing to go indoors and leave them alone for the night, I told the ghost of my friend that I finally got it. I understood now about the hydrangeas. It depressed me at the time that Trish kept on gardening, didn’t frantically try to set the world on fire in the final days that remained to her. It made me angry even. But that was just because I was too young to understand. She was old soul and maybe--though I’d never heard her say a religious thing in her life--she had some kind of spiritual sense that was rooted there in the soil she tended. Gardening, after all, is an act of hope. To plant in the ground is to believe that there is a tomorrow and one with favorable conditions for life. Even if we are not there to see it, nature will go on. Life will bear fruit. I wish my aunt had been a gardener, I said to Trish's spirit. Too simplistic of an answer, of course, too simplistic of a wish. But every gardener has to believe in something like rebirth.  

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Kate Delany is the author of two books of poetry—Reading Darwin (Poets Corner Press) and Ditching (Aldrich Press). Her fiction and verse have appeared in many magazines and journals, such as Art Times, Barrelhouse, Jabberwock Review, Room and Poetry Quarterly. She does freelance writing on the topics of parenting, holistic health, herbs and gardening. She holds a MA in English from Rutgers-Camden and a BA in English and BA in Art History from Chestnut Hill College. She lives in Collingswood, NJ, with her husband and two children.  


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