Revisiting The Garden

I've written (posted) about my Nana's garden many times before. She's even guest posted here a couple of times, done a batch of gardening tutorial videos, but not even the pictures in this post do justice to the garden itself, our family jewel, alive and wild and overgrown, its blossoms newly in bloom, always in bloom, for as long as I've been alive, in bloom...
My mother was a child here, in the garden I used to make-believe was a world all mine. My cousins and I would gather by the fountain in the Japanese Garden outside my Nana's bedroom, wash our hands with magic, make our barbies dance through the moss between the stones, pointing out fairies in the shadows of Torrey Pines. My mother married my father in the garden after Christmas. She was twenty-one and he was twenty-four. She wore a cotton dress and no makeup and her father delivered the service under the arbor at the foot of the garden where today we have our Easter brunch. Where Archer and Fable gather at the mushroom fountain, soaking their hands and good shoes, wiping their fingers on my dress. Where life is busy being lived against the sun.
I've been thinking a lot about homes. About what it means to own one. I am as delighted as I am terrified to put down roots. Real roots. Roots you must owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to. Roots upon which old houses rest with roofs that need repair and garages that need rebuilding, about tending a home garden in the yard that will be our land to tend. Could I learn? Should I even bother trying? How could I possibly even try to live up to the women in my family, their thumbs green, and mine... chipped with nail polish. Will that change when we have a home of our own? A home that we will work to make ours, learn how to tend to? Fix? Love?
We hide eggs for the children in trees older than my mother. We pull back branches and flowers, placing delicately within them Archer's hand-dipped creations as my Nana tells the children to close their eyes.

"No peeking," she says.

And they listen. Because magic is worth more than knowledge ever was. Because it's much more fun to discover the truth for themselves. No shortcuts. No cheating. Someday there will be peeking out of fingers but not here. Not yet.

It's a wild garden. Wild like all things wonderful. Maintained by eighty-year-old hands unafraid of dirt under the fingernails. And the children smile and dance and kiss the flowers on their petaled faces with lips chapped from sun, their hair wild from eastern-blown winds, lightly salted, combed by sea with foam for fingers.
I often think about how it must feel to move into a home and then sixty years later, experience it still, the same place, except now you have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who chase each other down the same paths you once weeded as a newlywed more than sixty years ago. How does it feel to watch everything change in a place that has stayed relatively the same? How does it feel to watch everything grow and everyone grow up from the same garden swing?
The world so different, and yet, here we are together, like always, happy ghosts buzzing around us like bees, reminders of those who've passed etched kindly in the faces of the many children who resemble them.
When we were children, we would play within the layers of garden for hours and days and weeks the summer long, naming flowers and tripping down cobblestones, tearing our dresses before brunch, Breyer horses in our hands, clip-clop, clip-clop, neiiiiiigh... We made believe until everything was possible. Until truth and fiction were related, cousins and sisters and brothers hidden beneath the the pergola, curling around our ankles like the sweet peas we picked and ate off the vine.

Twenty-five years later, nothing has changed. Except for the bodies that gather here. Flowers and faces reincarnated in baby ferns among the rotting wood. I remember so much the feeling of being young. Flat-chested in my floral dress with my hair in bows and my sandals scuffed from not caring. And I watch my children, not as their mother but as someone who desires so much to rediscover the world without peeking first.

Show me what you see. Teach me what you know. Direct me toward the nearest fairy. Hold my hand and take me to the blue and purple eggs.
In the garden we are all tiny. Even my grandmother, who gets down in the dirt with the children. Even my teenage cousins who wield baskets in and out of paths, scattering wood chips with their giant shoes.

As a child I lied about the garden when I went outside its walls. Kept the fairies and the flowers and the stories to myself to keep them safe. The garden was a private place where only gnomes and birds could trespass. And my cousins. And my siblings. And me.

When we packed the kids into the car yesterday, exhausted and elated with tummies full of hard cooked eggs, Fable cried. And then Archer cried. Because while coming together is wonderful, saying goodbye to gardens and fairies and egg hunts and cousins and games of hide and seek is cruel. I remember feeling the same way when I was little. Not that I don't feel the same way now, hiding the eggs instead of finding them...
But it's all the same, you know? It's just as fun to hide as it is to seek.
Some places never lose their magic. How grateful I am that all these years later, the garden remains as it is this Spring and always. Ask my Nana why she built the garden and she will tell you, for the children. And here we are, ageless, together, four generations of boys and girls finding ourselves and each other in new ways. And we do. Stretched across swings, and among flowers, behind sunglasses and under the hats my Nana keeps in a pile by the door to prevent sunburn. On wood beams, surrounded by flowers overflowing and cracked Terra-cotta pots.

My mother is a child here, now. In this garden, all of us are -- budding year-round, even in the shade. Where time escapes through wooden gates and nothing exists beyond the rainbow of blooms that climb upward toward the sky.
That's the problem with breaks. We get to taste what life would be like without jobs or school or bedtimes. We get to play until we fall over with holes in the knees of our jeans, drink mimosas surrounded by the people we love the most, people who know us best because they've known us always, because they've watched us trip around the same pathways with scuffs on our shoes. We get to play and dance and eat piles and piles of berries on those special floral plates with the butterflies on them.
And then it's Monday morning, time to wake up and put on our school uniforms and sensible shoes, deal with more escrow paperwork, make dentist appointments, worry about the future, find a way to press our faces to the sky and bask in the warmth of reality. Because it is warm here. Because this is home now. Because soon enough, empty baskets will be filled to their brims with new and multi-colored eggs.


ed: the italicized bits of this post are via this one.


(Thanks so much for letting me take some time, you guys. Hope everyone had a lovely week!)


Mama Smith | 12:32 PM

Amazing. Such a magical and special place and you are so lucky to be able to hold on to those memories and make new one's with your family. It's like a dream. Cheers to setting down those roots!

Kim | 12:58 PM

Hey, R.
This is awesome. We just got back from visiting my home-- the one I grew up in. Lived there from age 7 till I left after college. My daughter slept in my old bed and has appropriated my old doll. I realize the house is no longer mine and I discover cool things my mom has hoarded in her storage area. It's fun to go back to where I was young. To where I'm borrowing the car and finding not much has changed just as I look around and get lost, 'cause I'm in L.A. now.

Amber | 1:09 PM

I knew I would love this post. EGAD, DO I EVER. How magical <3

Unknown | 1:21 PM

I had just convinced myself (again) that I would be happy being a renter forever. Now I want a garden.

Abilew-who | 1:26 PM

OhmyGodhowincrediblybeautiful! Holy cow. I cried a little when the post was over - I don't blame the kids for boohooing one bit. What a beautiful place and a beautiful memory for them. I am envious and awestruck all at the same time. Tell me she started with a patch of bare dirt and it grew into this?! That would mean that absolutely anything is possible. Would love to see a big overview photo of the whole shebang. Inspiring.

Anonymous | 1:37 PM

So beautiful!!!

Shea Goff | 1:42 PM

I adored this.
Thank you.

Anonymous | 1:44 PM

What a treasure you and your entire family have in your Nana and her garden. I remember many years ago when I too had young children, returning to the home I was conceived and raised in. The smell of the freshly mowed lawn, my dad using the antique 1st generation riding mower he rescued from the trash as a treasure many years before, and the scent of my mother baking Chocolate Layer Cake covered in my Great Grandmother's icing recipe (the one I still use and passed on to my own daughters.) Alas that home has not been in our family since 1986, but I can close my eyes and see every inch of that house and the yard as if it was yesterday.

Entwined Essentials | 1:48 PM

Such a beautiful garden, such a beautiful post. Again, thank you for sharing your life with us. I'm glad you took some time off too btw.

Katie | 1:50 PM

This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Thank you for posting - the story, the words, the pictures are all amazing and a huge blessing.

Now I want to learn to garden - I want this garden.

It takes me back to childhood at MY grandparents - the garden hasn't been the same since my grandpa passed away... I hope I can provide this kind of magic for my baby someday.

Thank You.

Trina | 2:12 PM

My own grandma left us last year and her garden and the home with it was sold last week. I too am embarking on the creation of my own garden at my own house. Yet somehow it is bittersweet knowing that it will never be quite like my Yaiyai's. I have the best of starts though, with seeds that she saved before her stroke and pots of things she stuck in the earth 2 years ago. I'm carrying the legacy. Her sweet peas are just starting their journey up the strings she taught me to tie. I can do this. :)

Eva | 2:41 PM

What a beautiful garden. Amazing place for children to explore and learn. My mother in law has a smaller version of this, which we can't wait to visit this summer.

kelly | 2:42 PM

Life is magic. Thanks for sharing yours.

unfounddoor | 3:05 PM

This is so lovely. I love to read about your family.
I still sometimes dream of running around my grandparents' garden with my sisters as a little girl 20 odd years ago - cant overestimate the enduring power of those pathways.
and now I have my 5 month old I am starting to itch for somewhere more grounded than a top floor flat... kids (and adults) need dirt beneath their nails. But buying in central London?! The thought brings me out in the sweats. Eep.

Amber | 3:51 PM

What a heartfelt and wonderful post. Your Nana's garden is magical!

carrie | 4:12 PM

I am a long time reader, though I seldom comment. This post moved me so much, I live on the east coast, while the rest of my siblings and parents live in Minnesota. This reminds me, differently yet still the same, of going home. I am so glad you took a break, though I did miss your posts. Thank you for writing, I treasure your words and wish you the very best in life.

glenda | 4:16 PM


Unknown | 5:23 PM

I want a garden so bad. Like you, my grandmother has the green thumb, and I often wonder whether I can even come close.

Thank you so much for sharing this magic with us.

Maricris @ SittingAround | 6:02 PM

Awesome! Your Nana's garden is very beautiful. I'm sure the kids enjoyed the egg hunting.

Lady Mama | 7:04 PM

Basically this is my dream garden. It almost feels like everything in the world would be okay if you had a garden like that to spend time in each day. A magical place for your kids to grow up with, too.

Lauren Knight | 7:14 PM

All those florals with all those... flowers! Amazing photos!

And I know what you mean about owning a home... it is equal parts wonderful and terrifying to take that step. But it does feel good.

Anonymous | 8:09 PM

Lovely magic here-and there, in the garden, in your past, in the now, in the future too- woven through your words and photos.


Savannah | 8:33 PM's like a fairy tale land. Absolutely beautiful! Good luck with your home owning endeavor. You learn as you go with home ownership...just like with parenting. :)

Bonnie Lea | 10:22 PM

Beautiful. Just beautiful. And your Nana's necklace is awesome!!

Michelle | 10:39 PM

So beautiful, made me miss my own grandmother and her garden. She's been gone almost five years now and some of the magic she brought to our family gatherings has been lost. To be that young again.

Beck | 2:13 AM

Absolutely beautiful!

Arnebya | 6:45 AM

I could live in that garden. Literally. I think I would cry having to leave it and its magic, its beauty, cousins!

I know it's scary to put down roots, but imagine how your Nana must feel to see so many generations do the same as those before them. That has got to be a special feeling, and one she treasures, I'm sure.

I hope your spring break was awesome and that this week isn't too hard to get back into the usual routine. (Our first day back found us dragging. I was only late to work by 10 minutes though, so I'll proclaim that a win).

Mama D | 7:48 AM

That garden is absolutely gorgeous. My Nana also has a garden that the family is very proud of, not quite as magical as this, but more manicured and park-like. We also gather there to play and take pictures and have's like an inheritance that we don't actually get to keep or hold. But watching my kids climb on the glacial boulders that are there and hide in the trees like I did and my mother did, while my grandparents look on, nearly makes me feel bad for others who don't get that. Almost.

bbgHappY1 | 8:39 AM

That garden looks magical.

This post reminds me of some fairy tale book.

Erin | 8:58 AM

What a great post. Love your way with words:)

Anonymous | 9:13 AM

Well now - that made me cry - on the bus no less - beautifully written


Unknown | 9:14 AM

As a new mom and a renter I constantly think about where to "set roots" for my son. I just bawled my eyes out looking at these photos. Everything is beautiful and magical. Wishing you & your family the best with your future home!!

Anonymous | 9:58 AM

Lovely post!

Sarah @ | 9:58 AM

Does she ever publish plans of her garden? How big is it? This is EXACTLY the sort of backyard garden we've been trying to establish (we live on an acre - about 1/4 of which is veggies and antoher 1/4 of which we want to make into something like this) and it's SO HARD to find good garden plans. I would love to see what sort of flowers she employs and how large some of these areas are.

Geezees Custom Canvas Art | 10:06 AM

Oh My Goodness...your Nana's garden is so pretty...what an absolutely beautiful post with lots of great shots!!

Mo Weinhardt | 10:25 AM

First time reader. I'm blown away by that beautiful garden. As an early childhood educator & lover of all things magical and outdoors, I want to say thank you for the gifts of wonder, imagination and excitement that your family is passing on from generation to generation - and for sharing a glimpse with the cyberverse that will no doubt inspire others. Every child needs magic, family, scraped knees and hide & seek.

Sarah | 10:51 AM

This post made my day...and what a day it's been. Thank you for sharing. When my husband and I bought our home 7 years ago, I had no clue what to do with all the property. Each summer I'm able to bring it a few steps closer to the Secret Garden I hope for. This post gave me so much inspiration. My daughter adores our gardens and the nature it attracts.

EMQ | 12:49 PM

What a beautiful post. I always love seeing picture of your Nana's garden. And now we've started on this path of having kids, and maybe our kids will have kids, and their kids will have kids...and if we're very lucky we'll be providing magic for them. And we'll get to see them experience it. Which is the pretty beautiful in and of itself.

Anonymous | 1:32 PM

My daughters, both of whom are lovers-of-rocks and have been since birth (and I don't know where this came from) - would LOSE THEIR MINDS with delight over that rock path. All those smooth, round rocks? Perfection. I can feel them under my feet. I would be perpetually finding them in pockets and random places around my house if we had a path like that one.

fabulousmrsg | 4:10 PM

Beautiful post. Stunning pictures and words.

kristi | 9:43 PM

magic indeed - your words and that garden. thanks for sharing!

tinyparticlesoflight | 9:48 AM

Oh, how I remember that wonder and delight being outside imagining a fascinating world full of castles and unicorns, and yes, fairies! The words in this post are absolutely beautiful.

p.s. I'm really diggin' your Nana's necklace!


Lindsay at Bliss and Whimsy | 8:47 PM

Love this post and love Nana's garden. Reminds of me of my own grandma's magical garden, which I miss so much. Thanks for sharing it with us!

cynthia | 9:08 AM

Gorgeous garden, beautiful words, adorable kids. :)