Thank you for all the good wishes and tips I received after my last post. Words can’t describe the suffusion of warmth I felt as I read comment after comment. I feel so grateful, during these times, for the community we have created here of articulate, thoughtful, generous, and of course, fashionable women. Of all the digital places I land, I feel most at home here on the blog.
I became enamored with the suggestions relating to identifying and growing native plants. I must confess your suggestions sent me down a very delightful rabbit hole. Of all the activities one engages in as a scholar and academic, I take the most pleasure from doing research. Not the statistical kind, but the good old-fashioned historical kind where context is everything. Where you read one book or article after another. You find an idea that sparks excitement and sends you down another branch of the trail and on and on until there is nowhere else to go. You fall down the proverbial rabbit hole. It becomes a liminal state where you are so engrossed hours pass by without you even being aware of it.
Living in an old house is making me even more fascinated with history than I already was. I can’t grasp or articulate the present unless I know the historical context, Perhaps I feel even more compelled to re-visit the past because we seem to live in a very ahistorical time. Let me be clear, I’m not nostalgic, not do I wish to go back in time but I have found that in the present there is always a challenge or experience had before and sometimes there are very creative solutions and with some adaptations are still relevant for today. My home is prodding me to research the transition between the Victorian era and the Arts and Crafts Movement, as there are many parallels to the issues we face today. Examples are consumerism, excess, environmental concerns and elitism.
And so we circle back to native plants and I found that the longing for simpler times during this transition time manifested in “Grandmother’s Gardens”. During this period (also during the time of a pandemic) women writers encouraged other women to garden as a release from the constraints of the lives they lived indoors and as an outlet for physical activity and creativity. Organized around everyday activities, gardens contained a mash-up of vegetables, herbs and flowers. During that time, and as is happening now, there was a migration to the suburbs by former city dwellers. Built between 1912-1914 by these transplants, the houses on our street still appear as they did in an old survey. In a deep yearning for a more stable time, there was a return to native plants and a turn away from professionally designed gardens. I see vestiges of a grandmother’s garden in the meandering, overgrown paths in our yard and in a cellar with shelves under the porch used for canning and drying herbs.
Somehow these discoveries steady me and give me a sense we will get through this time. I love that grandmother’s gardens were places where women could create, maintain their health and have a reprieve from the constant “duty of care”. They were spaces that offered a connection between family and the country’s past in a way that enriched, not substituted for the present. The women who wrote, designed and photographed these gardens turned them into professional opportunities and careers, just as some of us have been doing during this past transitional year. I will write more about “grandmother’s gardens”, sharing what I will both metaphorically and literally plant in mine and invite you to do the same.
What are you planting in your “grandmother’s garden” for physical well-being, creativity, new opportunities and balancing caring for those you love during these challenging times?
Stay safe and well.