Lost in the Divorce

Horticulture Radio launched its first podcast this week—RadioGarden, hosted by Andrew Keys—and the topic of the show reminded me of a time where that intersection of people and plants was particularly challenging in my life. It was 10 years ago, and I was going through a painful (are there any other kind?) divorce. People get married and divorced for so many different reasons, and ‘why’ we were divorcing has no power over this story. But the fact that I’d spent the vast majority of my time during that marriage in the garden does bear weight. This is a different take on the ‘Moving’ theme of Andrew’s first podcast.

On that wintery day in February 10 years ago the moving van pulled up to collect and transport that which I “got” in the divorce. Neither my soon-to-be-former husband nor I kept the house, but for now he would stay and I would go. Snow flurries were flying as I carried container after container of indoor plants quickly to the car. Those treks between car and house are still vividly etched on my mind. I was praying, ‘please don’t let this cold kill the plants,’ as I simultaneously prayed ‘please don’t let this divorce kill me!’

It wasn’t until a couple of months later, when I experienced my first spring in many years as a landless gardener living in a condominium, that the reality of losing my garden set it. During the winter I’d been so distracted by the heartache and details involved in closing down a life together and restarting a life of my own that I simply hadn’t time to think—about the bulbs that were now poking their heads through remaining patches of snow, about putting some cool-weather-loving pansies in the beds for early color, or even what I’d do to satisfy my green thumb this gardening season. I confess that the waves of grief that ebbed and flowed during the healing year after the divorce often brought longings for ‘my’ garden.

Yet I am resilient and grow like a tried-and-true perennial. In my new home my garden became a collection of containers on my third-story balcony, covert operations in areas known as “common ground” within the condo community satisfy my need to get my hands in the earth, and I’ve contributed to many a friend’s garden love and sweat equity. Just the way our garden grows and changes throughout the seasons, so has my definition of “garden” grown andchanged throughout my life. Such is the way of the gardener.

So I lost a patch of ground I’d come to call ‘mine’ when that marriage ended. But in the decade since then I’ve found the woman I was always meant to be, and I’ve found my way into many gardens where my toil in the soil and passion for growing things have reaped me the rewards of feeling connected to planet as well as to my peeps.

Peace on the garden path,

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3 thoughts on “Lost in the Divorce

  1. Patty,

    I enjoyed your post. I am in the midst of creating a garden — it’s been six years now and I often think about how I will feel when it is time to go. I’ve planted and nurtured every plant and shrub and they are, in many ways, my universe. Your post made me know that whenever it is time to leave, I can still enjoy life and gardening in some way. Loved your resilience.

  2. Patty, your story resonated deeply with me. Over the course of my marriage, I grew and left four gardens–every one of which I miss to this day! While I wouldn’t grab my Chinese Ground Orchids instead of my children in the event of a catastrophe, leaving behind the little green lives we dreamt of, designed, dug and doted on, is just plain HARD. Our gardens are so much more than the sum of their parts. When I think of them now, it’s the memories that make my heart ache. Plus that overwhelming urge to see how they’ve grown! Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Patty, Your post is both painful and promising. Leaving a garden is difficult enough, but to do so in the middle of a divorce must have been doubly so. I am relieved to hear that you have redefined your notion of gardening to include not only your collection of containers, but your contribution to friends’ and community gardens. You *are* as strong and resilient as a “tried-and-true perennial” and have bloomed where you are planted in every sense of the phrase. That gives me hope. Thank you. Lynn

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