Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Over the last few years, I have experienced this many times as Mick and I have navigated our relationship between Canada and Australia. It has been impossible to spend all of our days together. We were excited to finally be able to not have to endure these separations last December when he was retiring at 60. At long last we could look forward to spending our life together consistently. Well, almost. As anyone who has a partner with distant families knows, there comes a time when you need to return (sometimes urgently) to tend to matters like illness and death when you least expect it.
This past summer was the case for us when Mick's dad passed away. He had to return to Australia and I was unable to join him and so, once again we were apart for weeks. It has become harder and harder for both of us to live separately now that we are a team...or one soul as he so sweetly verbalized in a note recently. I found myself wanting to do something special for him while he was away, not only as a heartfelt gift to him, but as a distraction from the lonliness I was feeling in his absence.
I had been thinking about creating a garden bed here at our cottage. My bff Peg had put the bug in my ear one morning as we sat drinking coffee overlooking the lawn. "You know Deb, that spot right down there would be a perfect place for a flower garden." I had to agree it was the ideal location as it could be seen and admired from where we sat and the section was sunny and had a gentle slope that would allow it to be viewed from the second floor in its entirety.
I decided to get started on the project after it had rained steadily for a couple of days as I knew the ground would be softer and easier to work. I would have to remove sod, lots of buried rocks and boulders and chop through roots, so the task was challenging to say the least. As I began to pick axe my way through it all, I was unsure about the shape of the bed. After a couple of days of excavating the site, I had a light bulb moment. A heart. A heart-shaped garden bed as a living, loving gesture to my sweet guy. After all, I thought, the project was most certainly a "labour of love". It would be like a permanent love letter - a daily reminder to both of us as we would see it every day and every time we looked out the front windows of our cottage.
I started to think about what plantings might be meaningful as well. I knew immediately I wanted something red in the middle of the heart. A solid perennial shrub that would root deeply and anchor the bed. I chose a Euonymus alatus "Compacta", better known as a Burning Bush. Green for most of the season, but maturing to a rich dark red each fall, somewhat symbolic of our maturing relationship. I planted some herbs that I will use in my cooking to represent the nurturing aspect necessary to keep love alive and thriving. I gathered a few cuttings and pieces of iris and peony long neglected on our property and gave them new life in this garden of love under the tall pine to reflect the beauty we see in each other. I found a small evergreen in the forest that had self-seeded to represent everlasting love. A Purpleleaf Sandcherry, with its passionate reddish purple foliage and delicate pink flower was chosen to add contrast, a salute to the importance of contrasting interests and traits that draw us to each other and remind us that we are two different people and that, were we the same, life would be more than a little dull.
A white flowering Viburnum was chosen for its fragrance, to always encourage us to "stop and smell the roses", although admittedly, we are both pretty good at that by this stage in life. I then filled in the leftover spaces with fun, colourful, flirty annuals and some daisies and black-eyed susans to keep things light-hearted and joyful. What relationship couldn't use a dose of cheer and colour from time to time? There are several boulders and rocks throughout the bed, the foundation holding it all together that will weather the inevitable storms and winds of change that will come.
The final touch came to me as I felt the bed needed some ornamentation. Mick had been collecting some old bits of salvaged wood that with a little imagination I could turn into something personal to us both. We have long loved a Rumi quote "There is some kiss we want with our whole lives." I painted these words on the old wood in red script and it stands at the top of the heart reminding us both that we are each other's "some kiss".
Now that this "tribute to our love" garden is complete, we can watch it grow and change together as we do, and as we weed and maintain this bed over the years, remember that as the garden requires maintenance to thrive, so does our relationship.
And, on a final note, there are some beautiful but pesky deer that live in the woods that surround our little patch of paradise and it will take constant vigilance by both of us to keep them from nibbling and destroying our carefully tended bed. As it turns out they don't like Marigolds, so they will be added each spring as a deer repellent. Let's hope they keep their distance. If they don't, I guess we will just repair the damage and carry on.
The bed is just a few feet below a very tall old pine tree and so I have named it.
Love Beneath Tall Pine...for Mick.
Love Beneath Tall Pine