Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Memorium

I spent part of All Soul's Day at the MOP Garden. I was relieved to see that the bee garden hadn't been vandalized since I last visited and calendula and marigold were still blooming. One stray honeybee was desperately searching the rain-drenched petals of a yellow marigold for pollen or nectar. A syrphid fly hovered above the calendula. One of the reasons I grew the larger or "African" marigolds was to use them in an altar for the All Souls evening at Mountainview Cemetery, but I ran out of time to assemble it. So I decided to make an impromptu wreath for Leonard's garden.

Leonard was one of the guerilla gardeners who would plant things in the bee garden when I wasn't looking. I was frustrated when plants appeared in spaces we had designated for other flowers, especially when some of the rogue plants were unlabeled or contained invasive species. One day I discovered that the wiry man who'd been mysteriously repairing our willow fences was an avid gardener and loved "rescuing" plants other people were throwing away. When I finally met him and explained my point of view, he was very accomodating. "I'll give you a bed to plant in," I said, and I pointed to a bed just south of the bee garden surrounded by a willow fence. He filled it with a hodge podge of flowers and vegetables--from geraniums to broccoli.

Then about three weeks later, Leonard's partner saw me and told me the shocking news. My guerilla gardener had died suddenly of a drug overdose. His partner seemed very resigned, and still in shock himself. They had been together for many years. Leonard had been living with HIV and addicted to drugs for a long time. "This garden was his refuge," his partner said.

We left his garden as it was and kept it watered until one day someone pulled up all the plants. I was angry and sorrowful. It's a heart-breaking place to work sometimes, the old MOP, but it was another humbling experience of letting go of controlling nature in a public space.

After making the wreath, I harvested the tobacco I planted with seeds from Dan Jason that were grown from a 1000 year old tobacco plant. I sowed them quite late in the season, which is why they didn't bloom.

There's a lovely green amaranth plant in the garden. The seeds are just ripe now.

I left the calendula for the bees. There was some white sage and a bit of anise hyssop blooming as well, but I harvested most of the hyssop for seeds.

There was a big movie shoot happening down the hill and they were attempting to bounce sunlight off a reflective screen. It's lucky they had sunlight at all at this time of the year.

I savored my time in the garden, knowing it was one of the last beautiful warm days of 2009. The golden light shimmering through the yellowing leaves of the willow trees, and the honeybees were milling about the entrance to the hive. There are still bits and pieces of Leonard's mystery plants in the corners of the bee garden, and I don't have the heart to pull them out.

All your sad or merrying, you must tell the bees.

Good-bye Leonard, Gordon, and Peter. The gardens grow on in memory of you.

1 comment:

  1. a sad and lovely story. what an interesting person he must have been. mb