Houston Tribune March 2004
Bridgette Mongeon © 2004
Visitors who come by my home often comment on my garden. “Lovely, it is an oasis in the middle of the city.” I just smile and feel a warm nurturing feeling accompanied with a quiet excitement.
There once was a day when my garden oasis was only a dream. My surroundings seemed void, dry and sparse. It was, in fact, a reflection of what I was feeling inside of me at that time. Our gardens can be a reflection of our souls. “I’ll change it all.” I said to myself one day.
“I’ll change the outside and it will help change what is within me.” So I sat on a patch of grass and dreamt of a garden. Then I took a shovel and began turning over dirt, and then more dirt. A friend came to visit me and asked what I was doing, panting a bit, still digging, I answered “Building my dream garden.” There was row after row of turned dirt, and not one plant to plant in them. It didn¹t matter; the important thing was to act upon my dreams.
It was apparent more soil was needed. However as a single mom there was very little expendable income. In this journey of discovering my garden and myself I found that just as I would put forth the effort and get to a certain point where there was a need, somehow what was needed appeared. It may also have been due to the fact that I looked at life more creatively, less confining, and with more possibility.
Just down the street the city was digging out drainage ditches. I mustered up the courage to ask the driver if I could have some of the soil, ” Sure he said, give me the address.” Soon I had raised flowerbeds everywhere. One last load of dirt was dumped in the driveway. I wish I had gotten up into that last truck to take a look, because this time I did not receive fine soil instead he deposited a large truckload of hard clay.
There were many beautifully raised beds all around my yard, and one huge pile of gumbo in my driveway. The beds sat empty for a while. It is inevitable if you don¹t plant anything in those flowerbeds, no matter how prepared they are; they will soon be overcome with weeds. And if dreams are not acted upon and then you lose momentum, the stagnation will be felt, along with discouragement.
I did not find the dirt I needed until I was ready for it, and had gone through the effort to turn my soil. Now that my beds were turned over for the second time I made myself ready for plants. While walking in the neighborhood I admired a neighbors yard. ” Fine garden,” I said. “If you ever need assistance I would love to lend a hand in your yard in exchange for some of your plants.” “No need to help, take as much as you want, I¹m moving.” Was his reply. So weekend after weekend I loaded the trunk of my car with plants. My trunk hauled so many plants, dirt breaking free from their roots in travel, that soon things began to grow inside my car.
I had Cannas , Split Leaf Philodendrons, edging plants and many other things that I didn’t even know the names of. At one point I estimated I had over $1,000 worth of plants. I planted my treasures with quite a bit of distance between them. For two reasons, the first was that I wanted it to look like I had more than I had, and the other was because I knew that after a time things would grow and eventually fill in. It is the same way with dreams that are acted upon; they grow and fill in the sparse areas of our lives.
Once I began to act upon my dream garden I became more aware of other peoples gardens. I noticed that many people had gardens that needed thinning. Each time I would receive plants from another gardener there was this unspoken respect for another dreamer and the honor of sharing in a part of their dream. In no time at all my entire yard was lush with bushes, flowers and plants.
Remember that big pile of gumbo? I painstakingly moved it to the back yard. Another friend came over and said “Your yard is looking pretty good accept this pile of dirt here”. I could hardly believe it. I said “Is that what you see?” I had spent so much time visualizing my dream garden that I thought everyone could see it the way that I did.
That evening I got an old piece of wood and some paint. I made two signs and put one on top of the pile of dirt and another further in the yard. The first said, “Visualize a waterfall here” and another said, “Visualize a stream here.”
It took over 10 years, and my paradise is still a work in progress. The waterfall is not complete, but the sign has been removed and in its place are two ponds. The stream does run into a lower pond just where I visualized it, under the footbridge that my husband and son made. The sandy beach with Adirondack chairs was never in my original dream but was added as I went along.
When I was a little girl my fondest memories were along the streams of the Allegheny Mountains. There are no mountains just north of the Heights in Houston, but the adventure and wonder I feel as I take my shoes and socks off and play in the stream is just as rejuvenating as when I was a child.
Over the years my garden has changed. My dream garden was not the only thing that was nurtured; I nurtured my own dreams. As they both grew I became inspired. I watched provision come when needed, spurred by my own actions. This taught me to work hard and to depend on God- faith. It all started with a dream and my willingness to act upon those dreams and with a little time life grew sweet, filling everything in.
Bridgette Mongeon is a sculptor, writer and avid gardener residing in the Heights.
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