When one thing dies all things
die together, and must live again
in a different way,
when one thing
is missing everything is missing,
and must be found again
in a new whole…
~ excerpt from What I Must Tell Myself by David Whyte
I suffered a loss this weekend, a loss that, to some, might not seem terribly important or tragic, but it hit me hard just the same, and I am grieving.
I discovered Saturday morning that nearly all (and in truth, probably all) of my rosebushes were infected with a highly transmittable and incurable disease called rose rosette disease (see https://goingtoground.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/rip-marinette-and-teasing-georgia-and-gruss-an-aachen/). Today, 13 of my 16 rosebushes are in the trash because the only way to prevent the spread of the disease to other roses is to completely remove the diseased shrubs. The other three show no signs of disease as yet, but are probably destined for the trash as well.
As I said, this might not seem like a big deal to most people, but for me and others like me, gardening is like breathing. Digging in the dirt is a huge part of who I am, and so the death of these roses is the death of a part of me. Half of them I dug and brought with me when I moved to Virginia four and a half years ago. One of them–my favorite, Abraham Darby–was probably 15 years old. I tended them and nurtured them season after season, and, in return, their beauty and fragrance gave me many years of pleasure.
As the poem above says, “When one thing dies all things die together….” Even though only the rosebushes died, the garden as it was with them in it has died as well. It is no longer the same garden and must be viewed with new eyes. Even if I were able to replace every rose that was lost, the new plants would be smaller and less mature, and it would be several years before they attained the size of the previous plants. To move forward, I must let the garden of the past die in my mind and allow a new one to be born in its place.
Just as I must accept this reality, I must also accept that I am no longer the same gardener that I was four days ago. While I have watched many plants succumb to drought or disease or bad placement over the years, I have never experienced such sweeping destruction—and from something that I couldn’t see and didn’t even know existed until a couple of months ago. The naive, trusting gardener that I was has died, the one who believed that I could combat anything that nature tossed at me. Now I am wary. Now I wonder now whether I should even try to grow roses again. Even though rose rosette disease is not soil-borne and therefore does not preclude the replanting of new roses in the same soil, would I just be setting myself up for another loss?
Right now, I’m still in shock. I miss my rose companions and feel their absence deeply. This is the time of letting the old garden die, and I need to let myself be in that place. One day, the shock will wear off and the loss will not feel so sharp. One day, I will be able to see a new garden in my mind’s eye and will begin planning anew. One day, the garden “will live again in a different way”…it will be beautiful and I will take pleasure in it, but neither of us will be the same. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.