27: Taking Root

27: Taking Root

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

Taking Root

My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.

~Abram L. Urban

I never thought I would miss dirt. I had imagined that when we moved from the northern tip of Illinois to the northern tip of South Carolina, I would miss snow more than anything. But it was dirt that I pined for . . . the black rich soil of the Midwest.

I am by no means a master gardener. But back in Illinois, the month of May always signaled the return of the flowers. After the long and often harsh winters, those colorful beauties always lifted my spirits. I would purchase bedding plants and then spend a happy afternoon planting them around our yard. The moist scent and texture of the soil made patting it down around a fragile new plant satisfying. It was like tucking a small child into bed. I trusted that soil completely; I knew that it contained everything my small flowers needed to grow and thrive. All that was required of me was adequate water.

During our two-day drive to South Carolina, I remember watching the changing scenery with interest. When we left Illinois, it was the last day of February. The trees were bare and the skies were gray. There was little to indicate that spring was on its way. But as we drove southeast, a transformation slowly took place. The first thing I noticed was the grass becoming greener. And then the trees began to show signs of budding leaves. Farther south, the trees were already flowering.

I was stunned to see tulips and daffodils already in full bloom in our new neighborhood. The bird activity was exciting too, as if they were scolding me: “You’re late! Get busy!”

At the garden center, I eagerly filled my trunk with trays of my usual favorites. I also purchased a few unfamiliar plants that weren’t hardy enough to grow up north. That was a bit intimidating. I thought about the bluebirds and the lizards that I was seeing for the first time in this southern climate. “I’m not in Illinois anymore,” I thought to myself, feeling a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

I couldn’t wait to spruce up our new yard, but first I had to contend with this strange orange soil that was hard as rock. I was able to dig down a bit but was dismayed that conditions didn’t improve as I went deeper. I was dealing with clay now, and it resisted my shovel.

I glanced at the many trays of plants that I had carried home with such confidence. There was nothing to do but proceed. They weren’t going to plant themselves.

Two hours later, I stiffly stood up, grabbing the fence for support. The battle was over, but I couldn’t claim victory yet. The plants were in, but I worried about them. The soil hadn’t enveloped them in the snug and cozy manner of the black dirt I was used to. The plants looked different, too, against this orange backdrop. I sprinkled them well and crossed my fingers.

While Illinois offered fertile soil, South Carolina offered warmth and sunshine. As the bluebirds busied themselves with their nests, my flowers began to flourish. They grew fuller and stronger. I even had success with the unfamiliar varieties, and I photographed these “new friends” with delight. I spent many afternoons on the patio, watching as hummingbirds and bees inspected the garden.

I’ve embraced the new environment, and I too am flourishing. South Carolina feels like home. That orange clay soil is part of the landscape that I now recognize and cherish.

America is a vast, wide and welcoming country. What an amazing array of natural beauty surrounds us, from the mountain peaks to the sandy shores. The terrain may change from state to state, but roots can still be established no matter where you plant yourself.

~Marianne Fosnow

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