The Will to Live

Posted on June 3, 2014 under Storytelling with no comments yet


Do you have garden envy?



“Inch by inch, row by row,

Gonna make this garden grow …”

The Garden Song – John Denver


Back in the 1970’s I lived in Victoria, B.C.   It is easily one of Canada’s most beautiful cities.  The climate is temperate, allowing people to do outdoor activities year round.  If you are a recreation enthusiast this is practically Nirvana.  You can walk, jog, run, and hike in some of the most stunning scenery imaginable.  And if you are a gardener you are in seventh heaven.

What I remember most about Victoria is that people were crazy about their gardens.  Within the city limits flower beds were the obvious choice, but you didn’t have to go far to see some world class vegetable patches.  And if you didn’t have a green thumb, you could always drive 30 minutes outside of the city and witness the ever stunning Butchart Gardens.

My first feeble attempt at gardening was in Whitelaw, Alberta.  I was the principal of a small, rural elementary school and I lived in the teacher’s house right next door.   Whitelaw is a part of the Peace River country, with farmers renowned for their prowess in growing varieties of wheat, grains and oilseed crops.  I thought I should demonstrate my community spirit by planting a small vegetable garden behind the house.  I carefully prepared the soil in late spring and was all set to plant what would surely be a bumper crop of peas, beans and potatoes.

And then black fly season unleashed all of its fury.  Rather than risk being carted away by man sized insects, I simply went out one evening, and instead of planting seed, I planted a white flag.  I went to Hemstock’s IGA the next day and bought my veggies there.

Not long after we were married and had moved into our first house, my wife suggested that we plant some flowers and shrubs and put in a small garden.  I have always been open to new things and tend to attack novelty with zeal.  The only thing lacking was, and still is, the commensurate proficiency to carry out the task.  Early on in the game I was relegated as a helper.  I was allowed to spread manure (still doing that!) and could safely scoop mulch into bags at the local nursery.  But anything requiring imagination and competence was left to my wife.

Did I mention cutting branches off of shrubs?  I think that I overdid the pruning a few times.  Scratch that off my list of skills.

I used to do some weeding but two things have conspired that have forced me to give up this form of honest toil: I can’t distinguish weeds from non-weeds and I have a bad back.  Now I can no longer kneel in church or in the garden.   Not that I am allowed to weed anymore as the following tale will explain.


A few years ago our kind and talented son-in-law built us raised beds for our backyard garden.  He planted the first round of fruit and vegetables for us – an amazing array of corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, greens, onions, strawberries and even watermelon!   I was mowing the lawn one day and noticed straggly weeds hanging over the sides of one of the gardens.  I thought that I would do the gardener a favour by pulling them out as I lifted them out of the way of the mower.  Ta ta, watermelon!

I was chatting about all things gardening with one of the staff the other day.  I explained my woeful ineptitude.  When I asked her about her knack for digging in the dirt, she looked up from her computer and said, “Our plants and shrubs have to have the will to live in order to survive.”

Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad.


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