Four years ago I planted a garden. I planted red and white tulips, and blue grape hyacinths. I planted these bulbs because I felt inspired, I felt excited, I felt pleased. I never felt so proud to be an American. Proud to be part of a country that in a quick moment had passed up fear, and chosen hope.
I remember the day after Barack Obama was elected to be a cool, sunny fall day in the northeast. I drove down the hill to Agway, bought my bulbs, and drove home listening to NPR with tears of joy. I dug up a small oval shaped plot in the backyard by the pond and planted my bulbs in the shape of a peace sign to remind me that we had chosen the hope of a new, different, and liberal President.
Corny I know, but I had to do something to mark the day. And the metaphor of planting something now that would take months and months to bloom into beautiful life was not lost.
That first spring my bulbs bloomed quite nicely. They were bold and bright, and red and white. I adored them.
The next couple of springs let my red, white, and blue bulb garden, my victory garden of hope and joy, become overgrown. The deer came along for a meal, and enjoyed my plantings. I covered the area in early spring with deer netting, but then the flowers just grew up into the net and got warped and stuck. I struggled against the weeds. The grass was forceful and strong, pushing its way into the bed and closing in the space allowed for the bulbs. Weeds jumped onto the bandwagon as well, taking great advantage of the space, until eventually, by last spring, I had given up on the plot. It was hopeless. Ravaged by deer, weeds, and grass, there was little there to salvage.
The years have passed, slowly in some ways, since that planting 3 and 3/4 years ago. It hasn't been the easiest of times. There have been ups and downs and ins and outs. Lots of challenges have presented themselves to my little garden, and to my country. War continues, political discussion is at an all time hatred high, senseless gun violence abounds, discrimination and prejudice continue, and suffering... oh the suffering of so many...
I have felt a bit hopeless at times in my life. Struggling to find my place, help my family earn enough money, and create happiness for my kids and partner, I have wondered what my goals are, what my strengths are, where the path is taking me. In recent weeks I have truly began to wonder how I can call myself a writer.
As you know, I have started working through The Artist's Way, art recovery program, by Julia Cameron (blogging about it at The Artist's Words). Maybe it was this new process, maybe it was the kids being back at school, maybe it was just a brilliantly sunny end-of-summer day, but before fall came, I went out to my victory garden and began weeding. Really I began revising, reworking, redoing the area, wondering what else I could plant in this bed. I began digging up the grass mat covering the area, mowing the edges, and relocating the rocks. I felt frustrated and angry, digging through the mess, sure that the bed was ruined, along with so much else. I pushed those feelings into the earth, turn by turn by turn, and slowly pulled up... bulbs. Tons and tons of bulbs.
As I sifted my bare hands through the dry, cool dirt I found that the tiny bulbs I had planted almost four years ago had multiplied, a hundredfold. The brown cased tulip bulbs were plentiful, but the tiny hyacinth bulbs were uncountable. I pulled them all out, piling them high as I searched. Patiently and carefully I pulled back all the dirt from the bed and began replanting this abundant treasure. There were entirely too many for the small bed. I would have to spread them out across the gardens.
I planted hope four years ago, but I let that hope get away from me. I forgot. Bulbs need care. I neglected them. I did not dig them up and separate them, replanting and repositioning them yearly as one is supposed to do. I let the deer, the weeds, the grasses take over. And the result was an overrun garden. That's the thing about bulbs and hope- because they take so long to sprout, it is easy to forget just how precious they are.
Yet, somehow, even under all that, even in neglect, the bulbs kept growing. Quietly and calmly growing. Weathering the winters. Waiting for spring to arrive to create beauty again.
I have recovered the victory garden in my yard, as I slowly recover the hopeful artist within myself. My wish is that even after the hardship and pain of recent times, we will all begin to dig into our own overgrown beds and press our hands through the calming earth. I know that when we do this we will rediscover that still growing there, under all those encroaching weeds, deep within our vast hearts, wait countless bulbs of hope, ready to burst open come spring.