In My Garden by Megan Verwelst

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close up of two perfect tomatoes by Bart Heird

In my garden there is the oregano plant they gave you at dialysis. The catnip seeds we planted and forgot about, until I discovered them one summer, lush and green and alive.  The things that have continued to grow, years and years after you’ve been gone.  There is the first plant I bought myself, the sweet mint plant that multiplied and spread, and threatened to take over the entire corner. There is the chocolate mint and the pineapple sage and the cinnamon basil. The things I don’t quite know what to do with, but I enjoy their scent, their blooms, their colors. There are the tiny invisible bugs that nip at my legs and leave their mark. In my garden there is you.

The scent of tomato leaves reminds me of you. I remember when you stood in the garden and ate plump red tomatoes right from the vine and hardy little radishes right from the ground.  Your hands, the familiar hands of my father, weatherworn and strong and capable, stained green from tomato leaves, your fingernails ringed with dirt. You begged and convinced me to help you in the garden when you got home from working long days. Pulling weeds and picking rocks and tying up tomato plants. I hated it so much. I hated standing there with the hot sun beating down on my face.  I hated the way the prickly bits would itch at my hands, would stain my fingers green, the scent lingering the rest of the day. I never understood why you cared so much, why you labored over those vegetables and vines.

Sometimes I laugh to myself, thinking that I become more and more like you every day. It’s unintentional. It’s in my nature. It’s a slow unraveling.

My tiny garden is much different than yours. Your garden was perfectly plotted, perfectly planned and planted. In my garden, there are weeds and uneven rows. There are herbs and flowers and sometimes succulents and cacti. The green beans and the zucchini and the pumpkins and the squash are planted too close together. The cucumber vines latch onto the fence post, yawning and stretching and pulling themselves higher and higher. In my garden some things survive and others die. My garden is imperfect, but I like it.

In the evening, when I water the plants, the fireflies dance past my head. I think of you in these quiet moments, when the water is trickling down the green leaves of the plants.  The memories are never too far from my mind, of the oxygen tubes that snaked through the hallway, of the scrape of your walker against the hardwood floor. The complicated, imperfect years of illness when nothing made sense, when the words we said were never the words we meant. The way the cancer sprouted and bloomed so quickly in your body. The way I watched your heart rate flutter on the monitor that last night, your hand lying still in mine.

I come out here when I’m missing you. When I come out here, I miss you. Once in a while in the garden I find a katydid hidden amongst the bright green it resembles, quietly singing its song. This garden is alive, lush, and vibrant, humming with insects and plants that dance in the wind. There is something wild about my garden, the way things grow and spread and bloom and sprout. I never understood you and your garden, but maybe you felt a little like this.

In the garden there is my grief, strongly rooted, a wild and natural thing.



Meet the Contributor

Megan Verwelst is a writer who lives in western Pennsylvania.  She is passionate about writing nonfiction, reading, traveling, photography, and, of course, gardening.  This is her first publication.  You can connect with her on Instagram @meganverwelst.

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Bart Heird

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