By Hilary Jocelyn
The sky darkened menacingly, and I run to the door clutching my evening cup of tea as I hear rumbling overhead. Mug in hand, I try to do a rain dance with a few twirls here and a few swirls there, as I contemplate the large expanse of garden in front of me. It is a seething mass of mostly hopefully edible green and leafy things, and the growing season is in full swing. We need rain though and so a storm would be wonderful right about now. I dance a bit more, hoping earnestly to feel wet on my head.
I look at the slightly dry tomato plants that are now bearing fruit for tomorrow’s spaghetti sauce. Beside them grows the dill, powerful and strong and ready to enhance the taste of my next potato salad. It is beginning to wilt a little, and after the hot afternoon sun their feathery leaves appear slightly limpish.
And just look at that poor little marigold plant in the corner, struggling to hold its head up high in the dry parched earth.
“Come on rain! Bring it on!” I shout to the clouds, dancing an urgent twist and a shake.
I have a dear friend who is a biologist and who told me once that in a garden there are more living organisms than there are people in Canada. I ponder for a moment the mind-blowing concept that this growing space I passionately nurture, is in fact a dynamic hub of incredible and diverse activity. I realise that within this tranquil rural place nestling in the Gatineau Hills, countless interpersonal dramas are likely unfolding deep in the soil, amongst and between the vegetables, the fruit, the herbs and the many other things that live there.
Sometimes our best journeys and most interesting experiences are carried out in the creative corners of our minds, and so right then and there, before my very eyes as I dance to the heartbeat of distant thunder, the following story begins to unfurl ….
Marigold glanced up at the gathering black clouds and shivered in fear and trepidation, feeling the evening suddenly chill, He heard distant thunder approaching from down the river and saw the sky darken menacingly. A powerful wind blew through his golden wavy locks as he stood rooted to the spot in the garden. He was terrified of storms and he knew one was coming soon to uproot his fragile tranquility
He looked around the garden for his protector, as the first drop of rain began to fall and land on his slender stem of a body. She alone knew how to help him make the transformation from uncontrollable turbulence to something approaching serenity. He needed her more than anything now, as he could feel the familiar rise of panic giving birth in his toes and heading upwards towards the edge of the soft yellow petals on the top of his head. Soon, he knew, he wouldn’t be able to breathe.
Finally, just as his spindly body was beginning to flail, and his insides were crumbling into shreds of impending doom, he saw her looming large and reassuringly familiar on the other side of the vegetable garden. Her many limbs were overladen and bulging with sweet aromatic round red fruit that she could hardly carry.
She was in her usual place, flanked by the rest of her productive Tomato family, but today his tormenters, were standing threateningly in the way, so he hadn’t been able to find her when first he needed her.
His tormentors were a disreputable gang of languid Dill. Ever since he had been a tiny seedling they had picked on him, telling him that he was useless because he “wasn’t a vegetable or a herb and so what did he think he was doing in the garden anyway?”
The Dill were always intimidating the smaller plants and flowers, bullying them mercilessly. Now they were blocking the path, feeling strong and powerful because they had sprouted enormously in the afternoon heat and were now among the tallest beings in the garden. Their multiple seedy stalks were shaking, laughing and giggling cruelly at his distress.
“Man Up” one of them snarled, “What a wimpy Marigold you are, to be afraid of thunderstorms.”
His protector suddenly dropped several of the bulbous red balls she was carrying, which rolled towards them and landed heavily on their roots, silencing them for a few moments
Then, she called out to Marigold and quietly in her calm tomatoey voice, helped him to stop trying to gasp and grasp for air. She showed him how to slowly breathe in and then to slowly breathe out and helped him to do this for the time that it took for each intake of anxious air that he gulped to slow to a more regular rhythm.
She told him to try to focus on the bottom of his roots deep in the dark rich earth, and to let them send healing energy slowly upwards to the very tips of the shimmery petals at the end of his stem. She suggested that he try to tell himself that the loo thunderstorm would pass soon and that it would bring them the rain they all desperately needed to stay healthy and to grow strong. She then cooed to him that he was a unique flower in the garden, whose gorgeous colour and vibrancy brought great pleasure to others. She whispered to him that he possessed magic powers that helped to deter the many destructive insects in the garden from gobbling up the other vegetables
As Marigold listened to the velvety voice of reassurance and Tomato wisdom, he began to relax and to feel stronger. His breathing began to regulate further as he processed her empowering words. His anxiety gradually quelled and his worries evaporated into the damp evening air. Although he could still hear the muted mutterings of his tormentors in the background, their Dill power seemed diminished and he was able to ignore what they were saying and to realise it was not his truth.
He then turned around slowly, bravely, and with a growing confidence he lifted his petals to meet the oncoming storm.
Later that night, after the rain, a solitary deer swooped into the garden and ate up all the Dill.