People tend to have vivid memories associated with the garden. This may be in part because being in the garden stimulates all of our senses. Outdoors, we feel the cool breeze and warm sun on our skin. We hear the gentle background sounds of birds chirping, insects buzzing. We squint in the sunlight that illuminates the many shapes and textures of the foliage, while casting deep, dark shadows. We smell the rain-soaked earth and inhale the fragrance lingering from freshly picked herbs. We bite into a sun-warmed fig fresh from the tree.
Whether we are aware it or not, the people associated with our memories of the garden carried with them these sensory experiences. They carried some of the garden itself, from the dirt in their nails to the smell of the plants on their clothes. Their suntanned skin evoked sunlight and warmth. They were our connection to nature when their food from the earth made its way to our table, nourishing and comforting us. They helped us keep a foothold in the natural world when we were the first generations to be removed from it. Often their accents spoke of another time and place, a timeless culture of ‘slow and steady,’ of physical endurance, of a simple lifestyle that produced visible, tangible results. Our bond with them was visceral, and they helped us feel whole.
These sensations and feelings are the basis of so much of the reminiscing, relayed not always in full stories, but glimpses of memories. Even now when the late afternoon August sun warms my face, I’m carried back to the summers of my childhood, walking in from the garden beside my grandfather, our arms full of freshly picked sweet corn, sitting together on the small side porch peeling back the husks, knowing that a steaming pot was already awaiting the small, tender ears. This snippet of memory washes over me at times, evoking a pleasant sensation of feeling loved and cared for.
Often the memories are light-hearted and comical, emanating from a clash of time and culture, the old world lingering in the new. Our laughter is out of fondness and nostalgia rather than ridicule or disrespect. Some of our memories remain because of the lessons they taught us, words of wisdom and common sense that echo in our minds, informing actions and shaping character. We have created a space for all of these reflections called ‘Stories from the Garden’.