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What My Garden's Daisies Say About My Depression

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The neighbor boys bounce up the curb and slow onto the flagstone path that cuts across our yard and into theirs. From my perch on the living room couch, I hear bicycle spokes slow as they pass the gable, then smell the tarragon scent of the Mexican daisy, its leaves bruised by the boys’ tires and flowers crushed under treads. The sudden perfume means less the boys are reckless in their crossing of the lawn, and more that I’ve been delinquent in my gardening duties. The daisy is once again overgrown.

It’s currently unseasonably, unreasonably hot, and in response the daisy has been extending a few exploratory flowers across the garden path looking, it seems, to transplant itself down and past the terrace. The street is 20 feet distant from the gable and the blacktop seems perfect (imperfect?) for the basking. Who knows what flowers think. They have their proclivities though, plants with their determinations and sun-bent recklessness.

The boys trundle through the garden gate next door, handlebars and wheel pegs clattering against the pergola as they lug their bikes into the backyard. Spokes have slowed to a few metronomic clicks. Were I a more accomplished gardener, I’d go check on the plants — better yet scold the daisy with a set of clippers, menace it back into its corner — but I don’t get up from the couch. The funereal perfume of tarragon lingers.

I can feel a relapse coming from a mile away.

I can feel the depression returning; it’s anise-scented.

Depression is innately quiet, but though it may creep about on cat’s feet or otherwise silent stockings, it’s also naturally inelegant; it tries to tiptoe, yet — like a thief bereft of stealth — always manages to upset discordant wind chimes upon its approach. It’s reckless that way. There are bulls in china shops, but depression is more like a black hole that opens up on the display room floor, upending chinoiseries and sending porcelain crashing to the ground: same destructivity, same ramshackle result, different tactic. Still — whether bulls or black holes — there’s the sound of breaking glass before there is the quiet of annihilation. Depression may have slippered feet, but it noisily cocks up the place first before settling in.

My tell is easy; if the garden is failing, so am I. If a leaf crisps too severely, or if a garden pot recoils from its spot in too hot a sun, I’m throwing plates into the black hole, else holding serving platters for the bulls to ravage in half like a toreador’s cape. When I take care of things, l am well.

I get up — it takes monumental effort — but the boys have now disappeared and the daisy bears a split neck and two petals for a crown.

I water, I deep-fertilize, I cut out the dead parts. The scent of tarragon fades and in exchange there’s the smell of watered porch. Depression has done me a favor by manifesting in droop leaves, and the trick is to answer in turn, irrigating the lot until flowers stand on their own again.

This is the trick, tired as it is —nthe chronic battle against evaporation, the sometime need for plants to rebel and require transplant; but know the trick, and you win. Know the sound of wind chimes upon depression’s clumsy entrance, else the smell of overgrown-ness in its lingering lease; know the power of assessing a dying flower; know how to reverse its droop.

The gate closes behind the boys and I retrieve my watering can, the smell of tarragon fading, the couch cushion resuming its shape. There’s the sound of wind chimes, but it’s in the distance and, hopefully, as the heat continues its glaring echo off the pavement, the wind chimes too will echo away and somewhere, the sound of them in respectful and feline-footed retreat.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Photo by Andrik Langfield Petrides on Unsplash

Originally published: November 27, 2017
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