One garden here at the old farmhouse is extra-special.
Partly shaded by a large red maple, it has two dogwood trees, two purple lilacs, a Japanese maple and a forsythia shrub. The Japanese maple was stuck there “temporarily” but was somehow forgotten and has outgrown its spot.
“One of these days, I’ll have to move it,” my husband says. But that tree is so big now that I suspect it’s not going anywhere.
Hydrangea shrubs and tree peonies also flourish here.
In front of them are smaller plants: Solomon’s seal; ferns; the intriguingly shaped “Jack-in the Pulpit”; the occasional trillium (Ontario’s official flower); may apples and another woodland plant whose name I never learned.
Pink tulips come up every spring, as do daffodils, astilbe, and hosta. It’s the only garden bed that’s home to such a variety of characters: woodland, shade, and sun-loving plants.
No wonder it’s called “Mama’s Garden”. The children she mothered are a variety of characters too.
Throughout the spring, pink lamium borders one side of Mama’s Garden, while blue forget-me-nots border the other. Recently, though, they’ve both strayed into the path.
“Your garden would look better if I could weed the path regularly”, I apologize to Mama.
And I can hear her voice saying: “Ah, m’dear.It’ll get done.Right now, there are more important things on your plate.”
My husband named the garden in tribute to Mama’s great love of gardening.
My mother died several years ago.
On every Mother’s Day since, I head out to Mama’s Garden, no matter what the weather, no matter what condition I’m in. I bring a sturdy mug of coffee, walk through the entrance arbour and down the short pathway, looking at the growing things around me.
I sit on the stone bench at the back of the garden.
“Thank you, Mama,” I say.
There are so many things to thank her for.
So I thank her and I thank God for her, and sometimes the talk with Mama gets mixed in with the prayer and it feels like the beings I am talking to are one and the same, but I don’t think either Mama or God would mind.
I give thanks.
For a mother who loved and tended her family. For a mother who taught us the importance of growing things. And for a mother whose love and faith live on in our hearts.
Garden photos by Hamlin Grange. Photos of Cynthia by Dale Ratcliffe.
This post is dedicated to my mother and mother-in-law, who mothered not just their own children, but all our cousins and friends when they needed mothering too.
Happy Mother’s day, and happy belated Mothering Sunday, to all women who tend and care for children.
Donna also paints, teaches creative writing, and has just completed her Ph.D.
She makes the time to support other authors – especially first-time authors and those who are independently published. She mentors them, lines up readings for them, and shares her own experience.
“If you know you want to write, if you really, really know that you do …. new writers of all ages…then just do it! Write! Make sure you do. And coupled with this you MUST make sure that you also read. Imagine a musician that does not listen to music. This would be laughable. You must read in order to write.”
Donna also runs Creative WritingWorkshops. The next one is at the Toronto Public Library in June.
She does this in her spare time. She has a full time job with Mobilman Management Inc.
Much of Donna’s writing in the past ten years has been done in her downtown Toronto apartment , “900 square feet with a washer and dryer included”. Her home is filled with paintings – some of which she did herself.
The apartment is home.
“I love my home.I didn’t show my bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, laundry area or my home office, but they are also lovely. I feel very lucky to have this place.”
It’s home not just because her possessions are there, not just because this is where she writes her books, but because her family and friends live on the same street.
“My sister and my nieces live across the street. I have a friend from my undergrad days who lives down the street. My father lives next door. He’s been living in this area since 1981 and owns seven houses in this area.”
Donna likes her street because it’s “quiet and safe”. Because it’s centrally located and has several grocery stores in the area. And because almost everybody knows everybody. Most of the neighbours know each other.
“What a lot of people don’t always think about is that it truly can take a long time to make a place feel like home. Even though I’ve grown up in this neighbourhood since 1981 — and went through a period of time where I was moving in and out of this neighbourhood — I have traveled and lived enough in other areas of Toronto to learn to truly, truly appreciate my home. I feel excessively fortunate!”
So much so that Donna says she doesn’t plan to move – ever.
“I have finally found my home – and it’s right in the city where I was raised – imagine that!”
MORE ABOUT DONNA’S BOOKS
Donna’s latest book was published in March of 2014, under the title:
Young Black Women in Toronto High Schools: Portraits of Family, School and Community Involvement in Developing Goals and Aspirations
Her books are in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French. Among the titles available in French:
Comment Écrire Non-Fiction Créative (How to Write Creative Non-fiction)
Qu’est-il arrivé à l’Afro (What Happened to the Afro)
Comment à parler Crazy People (How To Talk To Crazy People)