The sun finally came out around here and my thoughts turned to gardening. It's hard to get an early start here in Portland at least for the casual home gardener like myself who has no intention of mucking around with greenhouses and row covers. I just tend to wait out the rain until things look good and then I jump in with a few cool weather transplants and what I fondly refer to as sacrificial tomatoes. Planted in April, they're as likely to wither and sulk as they are to take off and grow beautifully, but some years we get lucky.
But here's the the thing. Inevitably my first serious foray into the garden happens in mid to late-April. And while I'm out there, pulling up bindweed, turning over garden beds, and whacking the hydrangeas back to something manageable, my mind inevitably wanders and I grow quite melancholy. This time of year, so ripe with possibility and optimism, is also terribly sad for me, as it's the very time of year when we lost my brother.
I've written here about my brother before but if you're a new reader the short story is that he took his own life 6 years ago at 33 years old. It's still hard for me to believe how long he's been gone and all that he missed. His son is a sweet, strapping young man with his father's wry sense of humor and love for animals.
When I first get out in the garden, I am always overcome with memories of him. Nothing reminds me of him like growing things. Somehow my brother got his hands on a copy of this book in his teens and from then on he was always growing something, always working proudly on his gardens. When we lived on a huge lot, he would come over and help us beat back the grass and weeds that seemed impenetrable. At that same house, he decided to build us some raised garden just because we hadn't gotten around to it yet. He was famous in his block for running out, post shower, in nothing but a towel, to remove an errant weed. And I'll never forget his excitement showing me the first blossom on his passionflower vine.
The day he died was one of those days when we finally accepted that it was spring and time to get moving in the garden. We headed off to the nursery that day and when we returned home with, among other things, a lovely Autumn Joy sedum, the creepy people from the sheriff's office were waiting for us to break the news.
[big long pause, lots of typing, deleting, re-typing, more deleting.....]
You know what? I don't know where I'm going with this, folks. I thought I had all these deep, weighty things to say about life and death and the changing of the seasons but the words aren't coming and I still can't make sense of what my brother went through, and what my family continues to struggle with. Another year and still no answers. You'd think we'd be used to it and stop asking why. Years pass, seasons change, and there's an ebb and a flow to the sadness as well. It's always worst just as things are bursting into bloom.