Old Pages

Sara Pippus

Anticipation hung next to the weather-worn tools in the back porch and chased her all morning as she waited on the fresh heat of spring to fill the yard. By noon, she could not wait any longer. Jill ran down the back steps, gathering her gloves as she went, and out into the blue and green swirling hues of the large back garden. Fear, mixed with joy, sat at the edges of her gentle brown eyes. She could almost hear her grandmother’s voice as the soft breeze brushed past her pale cheeks.

This year, though, could be nothing like last year– first the never-ending melting, then the robins, then the wind, then the waiting. She had researched and planned, plotted, budgeted and tended. Everything had been in place for the perfect look: perfect plants and perfect schedule. Except, it had all failed. The sad little garden had haunted her all summer with no blooms and had dragged into fall with a pitiful harvest. She had done everything right: working hard with no rest. The right seed, soil, and location; rains had come and gone at the best times. But the garden failed. Early frost took her hope and left her tired. All that was left of the produce were a few carrots salvaged from the hard summer. Even the flowers were grim. The chance to prove herself had withered like the last of the leaves now covering the ground.

Jill was ready for a new year and another chance in the garden. She turned her gloves over in her hands feeling their burden. The gloves and the garden had been a gift. Not long after her grandma’s passing, the winter before, a package had arrived for Jill with the worn gloves inside. A note was tucked in the left hand glove which had made Jill smile – Grandma used to tell stories about how she was really left handed. As a young girl she was scolded by a teacher for being left handed and was made to re-learn everything with her right. When Jill got mad about the story, Grandma just pressed on and said it wasn’t nice then–but the blessing of being good with both hands made her a good gardener. How she loved her garden. Jill kept the note in the glove. Each time she read the frail writing and spoke the words aloud, the joy of inheriting this cherished patch of earth wove into her heart and down her cheeks in gentle tears.

           Dearest Jill,

            I want you to look after my garden. All the seeds are ready and on the shelf in the back porch. They’re up with my gardening journal – you know the one I call my ‘garden bible’. Please remember to check the journal before you plant anything. I haven’t made it through a season without it. I love you just as I love my garden, no matter what.

           Grandma Nellie


Jill wasn’t a gardener – she had spent a few wonderful summers in the garden with Grandma but had never done anything like it on her own, but here she stood for a second time – alone – at the edge of the patch. A fat robin sang out, perched on the old metal gate. Jill stepped into the patch. She gathered up the stakes and scraggly remnants of last year’s garden. She pulled away the posts she had used to frame the perfect square plot. The rake made fast work of clearing and spreading the soil. No more straight, tight rows. As she worked, the sun warmed her arms and brought new freckles to her nose. Reaching into her bag, she began to cast the seeds as far as she could. She smiled as she saw the mixture of red, yellow, black, and white seeds all catch the sunlight together and fall into the soil. Some of the seeds, caught up by the wind, fell far beyond the borders, but she did not hesitate or gather them back. She didn’t stop until the sun dipped behind the house and cast a long, cool shadow across the yard. As different as it was, Jill was ready to trust in her Grandma’s method of planting. She sat on the low bench at the edge of the garden and let the old, orange barn cat curl up at her feet. The journal – Grandma’s bible — sat splayed out on the bench next to her. She picked it up to check on a few details and leaned back to rest.

Jill thought back over the winter spent resting and reading Grandma’s gardening bible. The first time she had opened the worn pages she could smell the earth and the gentle lilac perfume Grandma wore.

The journal called for the ‘ready’ seeds which were on the back shelf — to be cast — not forced into the ground.

            ‘Don’t be afraid to let the seeds fall everywhere, some of the strongest plants in my garden have taken root in the most difficult places. Pick all kinds of seeds, you never can tell by looking at the seed what it may become given the right place.’

Jill ran her fingers through the pages she found the dog-eared corner, her grandma’s favourite page, which was quickly becoming hers too.

‘The best garden has a generous gardener who plants often in a season. Take great care of perennials which continue to grow each year after a winter’s rest. They are the strong bunch.’

‘No garden ever comes up 100% – expect some failures – it makes for a better garden later. Expect bad soil, choking weeds, and rocky spots. Gardening is about knowing when to rest and that you must plant to have any harvest at all. Do not neglect a planting chance. It is an opportunity. Most of all remember…

‘You are never alone when you talk to the One – who sees to the seed once it is cast.’

Jill savoured this last message from Grandma the most. The last bits of light were fading as she gathered up the journal and her tools. She reached into her pocket for the note from Grandma and tucked it back, deep into the left hand glove. Jill turned toward the house and the cat followed along behind her in search of a dish of milk. A warm hope for this year’s harvest came over Jill as she put everything away and retreated into the farmhouse. In a few days, she would go out again and cast more seed. Grandma said it was the best way to ensure a good crop. But for now, Jill would rest and pray. She looked forward to reading the journal over the coming weeks as the seeds came to life. She knew there would never be a season without the journal again and she would remember to check it before she went to sow any seeds in their garden.

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