Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gardening Blind

Some days ago, Stratoz posted an entry in which he reflected, in response to a story he had just read, on what it would be like to garden without eyesight. He teaches horticulture at a school for kids who have been challenged beyond the usual, and from what I can tell, he is both a gifted gardener and an insightful teacher. So when he muses about what would be missing if one who could not see were to plant a garden, I pay attention. Here's part of his entry:

"Blind gardening, can you imagine? I try. I imagine the difficulties. The struggle. How much of gardening for me is a visual joy? With that gone...

I end up pondering the state of my spirit if I was to lose my vision. Would I become deflated and bitter? What would happen to those things for which I have a passion?"

I thought about this quite a bit after I read it. I'm not much of a gardener, and the tactile aspect has no impact on me. I don't have a sense of smell (really ~ I have never smelled anything), so it's not as if I could plant a garden and enjoy its scents wafting through the air. I don't actually have any concept of scent.

Michelle responded with
an entry about her mother, another lover of gardens who lost her sight:

"She continued to garden . . . . Though she had a marvelous sense of color -- she could match colors by memory -- she drifted toward more heavily scented garden choices as her sight dimmed. I remember driving her on an expedition to find new plants for a garden outside her bedroom, holding up various specimens for her to smell."

As I suspected: the sense of smell can substitute, at least to some extent. If one has a sense of smell, that is.

Grief, I have concluded, is like gardening blind. It requires that you reassemble your life with pieces missing and in the absence of the vision needed to accomplish the task. I could plant a tulip garden next fall without bulbs for yellow tulips, but that's because I can imagine the space in question with red and pink and white and black tulips. I can imagine the differing colors and heights and blooming dates, and I can create a garden with that information.

Can I recreate a life? With one of the main pieces missing? You've perhaps noticed I've switched from the word sight to the word vision. It isn't just the piece, the person, missing. It's the entire vision. The entire understanding of what life is.

This is more akin to gardening having never seen anything at all, having no concept of color, no concept of shape or size beyond what can be discovered with the hands.

Because when a child is gone, you are starting all over. In some other universe, some universe in which that child does not exist. It's as if I were suddenly blinded and went out to my garden only to discover that the soil had been transformed into kernels of corn, the hose gushed forth jelly, the seeds and bulbs had the consistency of oatmeal ~ and I was advised that the catalog showed flowers in silver and gold and gray. How would I ever put all that together?

Think about it. Think about trying to plant oatmeal in corn kernels and spraying it with jelly in the hope that an arrangement of gray and gold and silver would emerge in a way that would somehow be pleasing to the eye.

That's sort of what it's like, to reconstruct a life in another universe. Blind gardening with no sense of smell.


alto artist said...

Thank you for this beautiful post--this metaphor has helped me understand just a little bit.


Sarah S-D said...

yes, powerful metaphor.

and really, no smell? wow.

Carol said...

Incredibly powerful metaphor here. Wow.

Sally said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post, it has really helped me today.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

You've conveyed the disorientation and confusion and frustration with this post. And the pain.

Daisy said...

I also hear what you're saying and have no words with which to respond but the deepest groan of the spirit that I send up as prayer.


karengberger said...

This is a powerful illustration of the sense of disorientation and strangeness that I also feel. Your words make sense to me.
Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts here. It makes something of a community for those of us who are also walking this road of experiencing the death of a child. I have no interest, at this point, in attending a "grief group," but reading your thoughts, and the thoughts of others like us, helps to create that community of support and understanding for me here. God bless you.