Gardening makes me happy. I get black dirt under my fingernails and a crick in my lower back and I am no expert, but many of the plants I put in grow and flourish and almost anywhere I have lived has bay trees left behind, apricot trees, olives, bushes of cistus, lavender and rosemary left to the mercies of the next owner. Indigenous beauties of plumbago, tecomaria, the tree fuschia, confetti bushes, restio grasses. I don’t regret planting trees or shrubs and then having to leave them behind when I move on. It is my paltry offering to a world in need of greening.
So my tomatoes and basil and little silver thyme are all in the right places and watered. I have my old blue enamel pot with sliced baby leeks simmering on the stove and I have spent hours trying to write, getting a little further than I got yesterday.
Oddly, as I chopped leeks nd minced garlic, I found myself thinking about my Scottish grandparents, William from Linlithgow and Jean Hamilton (her maiden name) from Lanark and wishing I had known them. But my grandfather died in a car accident in France as a young man, an amateur golfer, and his widow went back to raise her three children in Edinburgh. I don’t know if she remarried. I don’t know why my father chose never to contact her again after leaving home and emigrating to Africa.
Of course I wonder if she was alcoholic. I wonder too about that fatal car accident near Hyeres and if my paternal grandfather was drunk behind the wheel. Alcoholism seems to have a strong genetic run in my family. The Scottish Jekyll and Hyde split like a defect reaching back generations. I have a small heretical theory that Calvinism emerged as a puritanical control mechanism for alcoholic Scots, those drunk men contemplating the thistle.
But today I am just an ordinary sober gardener, tucking my new herbs into old half-barrels and eyeing the cloudy skies to figure out if it is likely to rain tonight. Somebody I thought was lost in alcoholism and back out there drifting through bars and bottlestores and lost weekends emailed me and I feel very happy to know she is still trying to get sober. So long as we keep trying, there is hope.