This life of mine keeps taking me places. In the last seven years we’ve lived in four cities. We’ve had an apartment in an old Victorian in urban Minneapolis, in a restored church in Gloucester, in the old servant’s quarters of a mansion house in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Now we have a flat in a dated and dilapidated concrete building, with the sink and shower conveniently located (as my husband likes to say) just down the hall from the toilet. In Minneapolis we had pots in the kitchen windows. In Gloucester we had canna lilies in the parking lot. In Hamilton, for one glorious year, we talked our landlady into letting us have a piece of her kitchen garden, just sitting there fallow and waiting to be loved. We had eggplant, cucumber, spinach, potatoes, butternut squash, herbs, beans and beets and we would have had bushels of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes (except that it was during the tomato blight and all nine tomato plants died). We had enough zucchini to supply the city of Boston, had we been asked. In Oxford we have a balcony.
It’s basically a 4′ x 8′ concrete box. It is encircled by our flat, and from it we have a view of the backyard and some of the chimney pots of north Oxford. Many of our neighbors, I regret to say, seem to use it for storage and unlovely piles of bicycles, laundry racks, buckets, and boxes are common. (In their defense, they probably had to choose between storing these items on the balcony or in the bathtub.) In actual fact this building is overdue to be pulled down. It would be–it is–too easy to find fault with it. To move in and mumble because it runs out of hot water, the walls are yellowed cinder block, the kitchen appliances miniature versions of the real thing. To mumble that we can’t have a garden. Or can we?
We have, in fact, a lovely little block of outdoor space that receives every ray of afternoon sun. It’s one step out my living room door, so I can sit in the garden without leaving the house. It’s completely private, we can have a candlelit dinner for two out there or sit in pajamas with our coffee. This is where we are. This is what we have. This is what God has given us and it is so good.
We do not have a square inch of land. We do have roses, lavender, ivy, geraniums, daschias, lobelias, and fuchsia. We have tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, strawberries, and Norah’s beans. All growing in the middle of the air. All waving in the breeze and brilliantly green in the afternoon sun. We water every other day. This morning I pulled a minuscule weed from the geranium pot. We are gardening. We are blooming where we’re planted.
For Deanna, who shared her plants and sent me pictures of balcony gardens. (And who is changing the world, one good idea at a time.)
And for Alex, who spent a warm Saturday lugging dirt and plants and pots and children around on buses in a baby buggy. (And who never complained.)
The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is credited with the quote, “bloom where you are planted.”