In 2016, I rented an apartment in a large Craftsman bungalow in Pasadena, California. Shortly after moving in, I single-handedly cleared the abandoned back lot, then, with the aid of a friend, designed and planted my first garden.
I learned the horticultural rule of thumb for California native plants: “Year One, they sleep; Year Two, they creep; Year Three, they leap!”
I navigated garden pests, noisy neighbors, and the concept of ownership. Four years in, when the garden was fully established, I wrote of the struggles and joys of maintaining a garden that was not mine and that could be snatched away, plundered, or plowed under at any moment.
But as the Scottish site-specific sculptor Andy Goldsworthy observes, “All of life is a labor of love that we must leave, whether we want to or not, for the sun to melt, the tide to wash away, the earth to reclaim.”
From the back cover:
This is the story of a garden: my first, and perhaps my last. I started it at the age of 64.
As I publish this book, I’m 68.
The garden has brought me satisfaction, beauty, astonishment, joy.
The garden also required an inordinate amount of worry and work.
When I started out, I thought simply to put my creative energy into arranging a bunch of plants. I didn’t know the garden would overtake my life.
I didn’t know the garden would help teach me how to order my day, pray, let go, love my neighbor, die.
This one is especially dear to my heart.
Coda: After publishing HARROWED, I let the garden go. I left it to the encroaching neighbors–and moved.