As flower gardeners, we take comfort and respite in the fact that some things remain constant: watching our favorite perennials bloom again each Spring, getting lost in the beauty of a wildflower field. But there’s no denying that our lives have changed drastically since the pandemic started. We’ve switched out trowels for face masks and shared gloves instead of hoses. It also opened up a world of potential to develop creative solutions to boredom, which for many people was gardening itself! Pandemic gardening was one of the biggest trends of the last couple years.
In fact, I consider the pandemic a whole new reign of gardening for myself as well. It has provided the opportunity to start more projects and experiments, such as growing plants in different containers, instead of just my raised bed gardens. This has enabled me to explore growing options that I’ve never tried before like using hydroponics or aeroponic methods, which have been fascinating learning experiences. I even started a whole new perennial flower garden and mini-orchard in the back section of my yard.
In today’s story about pandemic gardening, “Brick by Brick”, author Liz Rasley decides to rebuild a garden wall during the pandemic and realizes that the process is slow and tedious, much like life during the pandemic. She hopes that once the wall is rebuilt, things will return to normal (or a new normal), but she realizes that she (and everyone else) have been changed by the pandemic and that things will never be exactly the same as before.
Enjoy More Stories about Pandemic Gardening and More
This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years, and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that turn stories of the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope this story does for you as well. Enjoy!
Brick by Brick
A lesson for an unsettled time.
By Liz Rasley
When this stay-at-home order started, I thought it might be fun to rebrick one of our garden retaining walls. Yes, I know. I am curious about my sanity, too.
The garden wall that I am rebuilding (read: tearing up and restacking) runs along our fence and is a long, snaking wall. It is close to 12 feet long, give or take, and feels every bit of it.
This rebuild brought sweet relief in the early days of these strange times. It was something to do. It was an escape from groaning online-schooled children and the other mood swings that kept showing up in our house on the regular. So out to the bricks I went. Outside, all I heard was chirping and quiet and peace. And—a big bonus—I was alone.
I moved dirt and bricks and learned that among other things, worms can be cut in half (whoops) and still wiggle. It was calming, digging things up and rearranging them, trying to improve life in some small way. Seeing the wall take form was a balm when it felt like all I could do was a square dance between fridge, dishwasher, pantry, and the questionable train of thought where you consider growing your own wheat.
But did I mention this about the rebuild? It’s brick by brick. Slow. Plodding. At times, boring. Mostly the same thing, day after day.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t see the similarities.
Rebuilding this retainer wall brick by brick is not about the bricks or the garden. This is really just a vehicle for me to deal with grief, loss, and anger. And me being me, well, I am trying to rearrange the wall to its former self. Which, of course, is a fool’s errand. I hoped valiantly in the beginning to make it look just the same as before. But I am much more realistic, hardened now. Time has passed. Stuff has happened. The wall will not be the same as before, as much as I try to restore it to its former glory. This wall has been through things: hailstorms, snowstorms, and almost floods. Things will just not be the same.
Sigh. Just like me.
I want this pandemic thing to pass over me, to not leave a mark on me or my family.
But I know. I know it will leave a mark on all of us. I know that I am that wall, symbolically speaking. Things have happened. Things have changed me.
But what I hang onto is that One Day.
For me, the first One Day is when the wall is complete (I still have a couple of feet to go). One Day, I will see the rebuilt garden wall and remember this time. One Day, hopefully soon, things will be better. Different, but better.
One Day, brick by brick by brick in the future, we will be on the other side of all this.
And real life will have returned, like the long-dormant seeds in my garden bed. Will it be the same or perfect? No. How could it be?
But it will be good. Stable. And sturdy. ❖
By Liz Rasley, published originally in 2020-21, in GreenPrints Issue #124. Illustrated by P. Savage
Does this story remind you of one of your own about pandemic gardening? Leave a comment and share it with us!