2) Looking out the window...

It’s daylight right now. Just noon. That window in my parent’s room looks down into the side yard, an adjoined city lot, divided from the house by the driveway. It used to have a beautiful garden that was my dad’s joy. It was the shape of a digital ‘C’ around the perimeter of the yard. The West arm was barricaded by the thick stone wall of the garage, but mostly by the rhubarb that grew in front of it. The south faced the chain link fence we and the neighbors shared, and the East was where the peonies met the Vegetables. It was glorious. Now it’s all grassed over save the West section. The rhubarb will forever flourish in the territory we’ve allowed to take over and the tomatoes are still there too. They don’t go away. But it’s not lush like it used to be and it’s my mom’s garden now. She’s trying to hang on too. She has preserved it, but my dad was the one that cultivated it. He was an excellent gardener.

Being a gardener now myself I have an appreciation for his partnership with the earth. They worked together. My yard hasn’t quite been tamed yet and I don’t seem to manage the weeds very well. They often get the best of me. Or, rather, the best of my plants. The hit below the belt.

Gardening is an unspoken tradition in my family. I can only assume the great-grands gardened, but I know my dad’s dad did. In the town they lived in, Lily Dale, NY, he had a small plot in the community. No one’s yards were accommodating enough for anyone to plant at home, so there was a significant town plot. He grew things here.

I don’t know when my dad started, but as far as I’m concerned, about eternity ago. I entered into a cultivated earth life. We had fresh tomatoes all through the summer. I at cucumbers off the vine often leaving none for the salad my mom wanted them for. I didn’t like eggplant at the time, but I liked how it looked; rich purple with a vibrant green stem. A color combination I wasn’t so bold to yet place in my own art as I was in my dark charcoal stage, well, for most of my teen years.

We had mint along the fence in the SW corner of the ‘C’ garden and when the neighbor’s dog that I was afraid of wasn’t outside I would enjoy picking the leaves off the vine and eating a them.

My dad’s sisters also garden, and they create elaborate plans. Dad is the second from the bottom out of 4. The only boy. He’s the last male Swift, making me the very last of all Swift’s in our family. He would never be sorry he had a girl, but he wanted more children. My mom wanted a career. Thus… no siblings. I wanted an older brother. So I guess he and I wanted the same thing. I, as an adult, have that in my cousin. He’s the next oldest from me in the first generation of cousins and was just glad he missed being the youngest by 1.

Diane, the oldest and the assumed matriarch since Nana, my dad’s mom, passed on in ’94, has an exquisite garden. She also enjoys cooking a great deal, so the two go hand in hand for her. Cindy, the youngest of the siblings, lives out a ways from the city in an old farm house in Hamlin. She also has done a beautiful job with her earth. These two go to great lengths to create themes each year for their dirt. It’s the teacher in them; all things function in themes and units. Teaching and gardening: These are two things my family does exceptionally well.

I began a garden the first year I lived in my apartment in Illinois. I was fortunate to find the first floor of a house when I moved to Rock Island and the landlord was kind enough to give me the backyard and let me do what I wanted with it. I didn’t really even think much about it. It was summer… you plant things. And so the spirit continued.

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