I do not garden.
In fact, there are many things I do not do. I do not run marathons, know Linux, carry a tune, or paint. Ride motorcycles, play guitar, or wear stilettos. And I do not knit.
Now as much as I'd like to sing lyrically, or make myself an afghan, or slip on 6-inch heels, I'm okay with my shortcomings in these areas.
But I wish I could garden.
Let me tell you a little story, about my mother. She was very smart, excelled at crossword puzzles, and laughed at her own corny jokes. She played tennis, swam, and read tons of books, especially mysteries. She named her dog after the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple.
Sadly, in 2002, she lost a hard-fought and very courageous battle with cancer, less than a week after my younger son turned 1.
But while she was alive, my mother could grow things. I don't mean that she had herbs in pots or a few tomato plants. I mean, she spent the last few years of her life forcing bulbs, tending flowers, and pulling weeds in between rounds of chemo. She moved from New York City to suburban Massachusetts in part to be near my brother and me, but in larger part, perhaps, to have access to land where she could spend her remaining days among roots, buds, and vegetables.
Within months of her move, she began creating a horticulturist's dreamland in her backyard. Raised beds, a greenhouse, and row after row of seeds and sprouts. Flowers in every color of the rainbow. Soil, water, sun.
I didn't pay much attention. I mean, I oohed and aahed at the appropriate moments, but I hadn't yet had my own renaissance when it came to food, and the whole locavore movement was years away. I had a baby, then another. I was distracted.
And then she got much sicker. The garden overgrew. The weeds stretched taller. And in April, seven years ago, she died.
Last week, after reading here that I wasn't feeling well, a friend left a bag of cabbage on my doorstep. It had a little tag, penned in careful calligraphy: "Here's some Rubicon Chinese cabbage from my garden for you!"
She wanted to make me feel better, and she did.
Gardens, I'm convinced, heal. Not just those who plant them, but those whom they nourish as well.