With rake and seeds and sower,
And hoe and line and reel,
When the meadows shrill with “peeping”
And the old world wakes from sleeping,
Who wouldn’t be a grower
That has any heart to feel?
~ Frederick Frye Rockwell, “Invitation,” Around the Year in the Garden, 1913
Our Wisconsin Public Television station sponsors a magnificent Garden Expo every February. It cannot come at a better time for winter-weary earth-tenders whose new garden catalog pages have worn thin, and whose eyes have tired of gazing at the bleak winter landscape. This year’s political chaos made escape into the merry and civilized madness of gardening seem even more welcome than usual.
Thanks to a friend’s kind invitation to stop in to give our 4-legged brood a lunch break, we were free to take the better part of a day and attend the expo, then enjoy a meal at an Afghan restaurant, wander around the Capital Square, do some shopping, and enjoy a leisurely ride back to Full Moon Cottage. A perfect day.
The expo was comfortably crowded when we arrived. Over 150 exhibitors lined aisles decorated with their displays and booths, some much more elaborate than others.
There were informational booths on raising chickens, keeping bees, growing prairies, and on hiking state trails. (Gardeners are nature lovers, after all.) Since we live on a state trail and near a state park, I enjoyed both of the booths sharing data and history on these.
There were tools and tractors, seeds and plants, landscape designers and contractors, ready-made sheds, and many artists whose garden-themed work or garden ornaments added wonderful color, whimsy, and beauty to the great hall.
There were purveyors of honey, mustard, soaps, and other products that incorporated garden harvests. And, of course, there were seminars, demonstrations, and workshops throughout the weekend, to help gardeners explore new methods or interests, and hone their skills at creating their own Edens.
Early on, there was space and time available to stop and talk with many of the exhibitors, which we both enjoy. For the first three hours or so, the aisles could be navigated easily and the exhibits seen closely, the way I like. I hate that feeling of wandering zombie-like in a slow-moving crowd and having my sight blocked at every turn, which eventually happened. The hall at last became too crowded for this short girl to move freely or see much. My 6’4” beloved scanned and reported what was coming up, so I missed only the last half of the last aisle completely, which I considered a grand job altogether. I’m glad we arrived early.
I fought the temptation to spend too much money, but did leave with a lot of new brochures and catalogs to dream my way through over the next two months, until we can really get to it in the gardens.
Phillip isn’t as passionate about gardening as I am; going to the Expo was a Valentine treat to me, although he enjoyed visiting with a lot of exhibitors and welcomed the day’s sweet adventure. I am so grateful for his willingness to be a true companion. At one point, making a turn around an aisle in the middle of the hall, we heard one man say to another, “Yeah (sigh), my wife loves this crap.” He rolled his eyes and commiserated with his listener.
Phillip and I laughed, but I felt sad for his wife, because this guy couldn’t enter into the spirit of her joy a bit more. Nothing like one’s own true love choosing the role of begrudging grumpus.
As the day ended and we drove back towards home, I thought about tending our relationships, about the friend who volunteered her time so we could enjoy a fine day together, about Phillip’s loving gift of an adventure that he knew would delight my heart, about the ways I hope I nurture these relationships and others…I watched the men ice-fishing on Rock Lake and wondered if their partners were happy for them to be there, enjoying the peace and camaraderie of their friends, and if the anglers had plans for activities that equally supported their partners’ spirits and joy.
“Who wouldn’t be a grower/ That has any heart to feel?” asks the inveterate gardening writer Frederick Frye Rockwell. I would add that one can choose to grow her heart and capacity to love as well as her garden, and hearing that man’s comment made me all the more joyful to be partnered with someone whose heart is big enough to value my happiness, and support it so well. Having Phillip beside me is what made the day so special; it’s what makes my life so special.
May you be as blessed in those companions who share your life.
Happy Valentine’s Day!