Our yard is a mixture of our personalities, my husband's and mine. He likes straight lines, defining edges, fences. I like curving lines with an overflow of plants cascading onto the walkway or lawn.
He trims the forsythia into a boxy hedge. I tell him the blooms would be better if he let it twist and tumble like it wants.
He prefers factual conversation, a logical progression of information that has a purpose. I speak when the thought arises, often just a comment with no point except observation. I speculate, I wonder. This is uncomfortable for him.
"What's the point?" he says?
"Does there need to be a point?" I ask.
He has a system for mowing the lawn: he alternates between vertical, horizontal and diagonal passes each time he mows. He keeps the lawn cropped like a military crew cut. I prefer the tangly length that gets caught between my toes when I wander in bare feet, the kind that folds under me without scratching when I lie on my back to stare at the clouds through the branches of the elm.
He reads the paper for the facts, for the news. I go first for the editorials, the opinions of others shared in letters to the editor. He reads one book; I read several at a time., although neither of us might finish.
I got home from an appointment, changed into shorts, and headed out into the yard. Bruce was anxious to show me what he'd been doing in the yard. I was taking the "tour."
He pointed to the brick walk we stood on. "I transplanted the flower that was growing between the bricks," he said.
"What? Where did you put it?" He looked up at the sound of alarm in my voice. I sounded far more concerned about a scraggly Johnny Jump-up than even I thought reasonable.
"I put it under the butterfly bush," he said. "Why?"
"That flower was . . . a symbol . . . to me," I said weakly. "I wrote a blog about it." Even I knew this sounded . . . well, odd.
The flower was a Johnny Jump-up that managed to escape from the garden to stand alone in the walkway. It had struck me as an individualistic thing to do. If I were a Johnny Jump-up, I'd like to be far from the madding crowd, too.
But my husband-- a man of fences, rows, and flowers held in place by poles and wires-- saw it as something that needed to be captured and corralled, and put it back behind a wall where all good flowers belong.
It actually flourished under the bush; there was more shade, more room to spread its roots. There was another Johnny-Jump-up there already. I knew it was a good move for the tiny plant, although I never said anything.
Later more jump-ups leaped the garden's edge, or tunneled their roots underneath, and bloomed between the bricks in the walk. My neat and trim husband left them there. Somehow he'd understood.
This week they became so scraggly and over-grown and unhappy looking that I pulled them up, and tossed them in the compost. They would have been better off with the one my husband transplanted. Maybe every flower deserves a garden.
Read The American garden~ to see the Johnny jump-up.