Years ago I decided, with permission from the landlord, to take matters into my own hands and create a garden in the little plot of land by the parking lot entrance to my office building. (See my previous blog post from Feb. 14, 2012 to read what happened to it.) Shortly after the nefarious gas meter and limiting stanchions arrived, city workers dug up the adjoining sidewalk for more work. In doing so they flipped the long, heavy boulder I had placed at the patch’s border over on its side directly onto my four year old and lovely lavender, crushing it. I imagined the sound of her sturdy branches cracking when it happened just like my heart when I first rested my horrified eyes on her.
Not long after, some new tenants contacted me about working the garden. “Have at it”, I said, finished with the fight. That first year, they cleaned it up, pushed the boulder off the lavender (which although a bit worse for wear, with amazing resilience actually came back to life) and added pretty new plantings. They thanked me for my graciousness at letting go of the plot so easily. I told them it was easy only in a heart-broken kind of way. Another lesson in how one thing must die so another can live in the garden. You know. Like in life.
This year, care for this plot has fallen away completely. No one has done a thing. The lilac is badly in need of pruning, weeds are thriving among scant perennials. I notice I avert my eyes. I have hardened my heart to protect it. It’s too sad. But on a recent sunny day, I couldn’t help notice the lilac was full of burgeoning buds, some of them beginning to flower. Who can resist the scent of a lilac? So I walked over to get a snoot full. And then I saw it. In the back corner where the boulder used to live. The Thistle.
There she was, spiny and spiky in all her threatening beauty. Already close to two feet tall. Not yet flowering. Not the light spring green of the advancing season, but the deep rich green reserved for dinosaur kale and broccoli crowns. The thing is, she is so strong, so present, so defiant that for the first time in many moons, I derived pleasure from this garden. Perhaps it’s because, when it comes to this particular plot, so rife with my forfeiture and loss, I relate to her prickles. They are similar to the bristles surrounding my guarded heart. Her blatant thorniness in our-have-to-be-polite-world brings relief. Her unapologetic sharpness broadcasts “Look all you’d like, but touch at your own risk!”
It could just as easily have been Dandelion that grew in that spot. That Thistle found her way here, that she found this neglected soil hospitable, that she is taking up space as boldly as any showy nursery purchase, repairs my faith in renewal. And more, shows me how wildness takes root when we give it room to appear.