Little Wind in the Garden, Again, mixed media monoprint.

Fae Kontje-Gibbs


A Gift Outright

We would not plant seeds if we did not expect them to grow. And yet, somehow, every garden is miraculous.

Driving the fork in again I find the rock and pluck it out. I use my foot to push the tines in deeper. With a slight twist I tilt, lift, and turn, tossing the mix of dirt, compost, and fertilizer like a giant heavy salad.

This is a new garden. It’s in my daughter Reade’s sunny yard, which adjoins my own. Her godmother, Cindy, is just two doors down. Reade builds the wooden beds. Her husband, Greg, makes the fence with a gate that hooks and un-hooks easily. Silvery driftwood cedar posts stand like sentinels guarding a peaceful room whose ceiling is the sky. Cindy and I plant.

We cluster large pots in the center to hold nightshades and herbs. Tomatoes ringed with basil, eggplants, and peppers. Rosemary, sage, and thyme, so ready with their fragrance. Parsley, cilantro, and oregano. Their names are poetry.

Lettuces sprout from tiny seeds, placed carefully in a quarter-inch trough guesstimated by my finger. Baby round nasturtiums emerge from what look like wrinkly old capers. Eager radishes line the wooden edges, showing red roots under floppy leaves.

Of course, we knew this would all happen. We’ve seen it before. But still…from this? Bits of dead plants mixed up with rotten stuff and water become arugula, carrots, and Swiss chard? We bury rubbish and reap treasure.

I found my way into gardening as a young single mother dreaming of home. My guide was another single mom, Carol, who taught me the rule of “no-guilt gardening.” Gardens are for pleasure, not pressure. They are to be enjoyed.

Green Bean Flowering, ink and watercolor.
Fae Kontje-Gibbs

Thanks to Carol’s tutelage, I am not a great gardener, but I am a happy one.

I get lost in the simple daily miracle of the garden. It grounds me in what’s really real.

From a small dry seed comes zucchini’s ruffling blossom. I am awed by the DNA. It soothes my heart and slows my busy mind.

And I am humbled by the profound generosity of Mother Nature. With just a speck of effort, we are rewarded with carrots, beets, and flowers. Plants ask so little and give so much. They are teachers. “Share,” they instruct. “There
is always more.”

And that’s what people who garden do. They share. As soon as I started that first garden, the gifts started coming.

Lisa and Thom arrived at my kitchen door with bags of “soil amendments.” Spades flying, rakes wheeling, they made four raised beds where before there had been none.

Terry gave me a box full of gooseneck loosestrife. “They are invasive,” he warned. “That’s all right,” I replied. “I like to watch what plants do.”

Green Beans – Babies to Bigs, ink and watercolor.
Fae Kontje-Gibbs

Fat Tony’s wife, Barb, dumped a clump of orange daylilies that rooted right there at the corner of the house. They spread too, very friendly with the goosenecks.

Paul, with his steady, quietly brilliant presence, built a brick herb circle and an arbor for the peas made out of branches found on the newly cleared ground. He planted honeysuckle, an apple tree, and a white clematis with blossoms the size of dessert plates. “Feet in the shade, head in the sun,” he said. Father of our son, challenge of my soul, we are always at our best in the garden.

Reade and Max grew up grazing on sugar snaps and clustered cherry tomatoes, nature’s candy. Sunflowers measured against their height, looking down on us all.

My mother’s lily of the valley, carried from New Hampshire, multiplied in a ring around the front yard maple.

Even birds brought offerings: ferns and ramps, mystery guests of unknown provenance.

Some from that old garden made it to this new one. The gooseneck, the daylilies, my mother’s little white bells.

And there are new gifts. Joan’s cauliflower, broccoli, and tatsoi, started from seed. Sandra’s angel wing begonia with spotted leaves.

Big Wind in the Garden, Again, mixed media monoprint.
Fae Kontje-Gibbs

All of them are here in this new garden.

I squat to tie up the blue-flowered borage, then push back onto my heels and look around. There’s Cindy pulling weeds from between the winter squash and the watermelons. Grandson Felix pops in, delighted by the tiny green beans emerging from white flowers. He loves radishes, and I suggest he taste a leaf. His eyebrows go up. “Tastes like radish,” he grins.

I feel all of us here, past and present, lost in time. As the shadows lengthen and the wind quiets, our tasks absorb us. We give ourselves to them, knowing it will all be given back to us. We are in a spell of practical magic where nothing is lost, just composted, food for new growth.

Nothing ever stays the same. Nothing lasts forever. In a garden, that’s a good thing. Pick a bean, another one grows. Radishes go by, space for more kale. It’s all a cycle and we’re all part of it. Twisted, tilted, lifted, and turned, we are lost, and found, over and over again.

Comments (1)

Ruth Campbell
West Tisbury
Simple and profound, I am there spinning around in this beautiful garden Faye paints. I love everything about this piece. She wraps it with a beautiful bow, of philosophy. Kudos, Faye.
March 27, 2021 - 1:30pm