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A-peggin’ in the garden

I mentioned last time that I’d taken the first steps towards creating a garden in memory of my friend Jill who passed away last year. It’s going to be a tile garden. “A tile garden?” you ask. “Never heard of such a thing.” Probably not. I think I may have invented it.

Readers who have been following me for some time know how mad I am for yard sales. Over the past two years or so I’ve been collecting tiles of all shapes, sizes, and colours, bathroom tiles and kitchen tiles that sellers would sell by the boxful, as well as ceramic coasters. I’ve accumulated quite a little collection. After a while, The Mister couldn’t contain his curiosity.

“Missus, what are you planning to do with all those tiles?”
“Haven’t the foggiest,” I replied.
“Don’t you find it passing strange to be buying up tiles when you don’t have a plan for using them?”
“Oh-ho yeah.”
“You’ll let me know when you figure it out?”
“You’ll be the first there, Pa.”

Then Jill died, and the grief was so heavy and hard to bear, and remained mostly unexpressed because although she was just a friend, I grieved her much deeper than that, and I think I was a little embarrassed by it, thought people would be offended if my emotions were to get the better of me in public. And that just made it all the harder.

I read and sang at her funeral, but I wanted to do something more to memorialize her, something that would help me heal in the process. My dear friend Karen Rockwell, a social worker, calls it “inviting in the grief,” making room for it, acknowledging and expressing it. This is what I want to do with the tiles. This, I believe, is why I’ve been collecting them for so many months. I just didn’t know it at the time.

On our tenth wedding anniversary, The Mister and I planted half a dozen trees in the backyard, and with the passing of time they’ve formed a little grotto right in the centre of the yard. Because of the shade they afford, no grass grows beneath them, which leaves a little space of bare earth. That’s where I want to “plant” my tiles.

Last week I picked up all the twigs and raked the ground. Then yesterday, I laid down some cloth, the kind you put under patio bricks to keep weeds from springing up, (it has a technical name I can’t think of at the moment), that divides the grotto into three areas, one each on either side of the vertical strip, and one behind the horizontal strip. The T formation gives me access to all areas of the garden and will provide a relatively dry, unmuddied pathway after a rain. What I thought would be an easy job of pegging down the cloth proved a little more complicated, as just as I got the strip in position, a breeze would spring up and I’d have to go chase one corner, get it nailed down, then race down to the other end and do the same there. It must have looked hilarious.

“Having fun, Goddess?” I asked under my breath.

I think I heard laughter.

After a while, The Mister came out to see just what was transpiring in the back forty and to offer his help.

“No thanks,” I said. “I’ll only ask for your help if things get so frustrating I’m close to tears. Right now, I doing well.”

And I was. My one goal was to get all the cloth pegged down. And surprisingly, even to myself, I got all of it done – the measuring, the cutting, the chasing, the pegging – until there was only one peg left. I pounded that little sucker for all I was worth, but it refused to go in. I tried a different peg – nuthin’. I used a metal rod The Mister had left me for starting the holes – still nuthin’. My legs were shaking from fatigue, and I was getting hot and bothered and discouraged. Finally I called in my big gun.

“Pa, my green eyes are a-turnin’ blue. And I’d really like to take a shower before the neighbours start complaining.”

“Want me to finish it off then?”

“If you would be so kind.” And I gave over my peg and wooden hammer.

After I’d performed my ablutions and was once more fit for human company, I asked The Mister how he made out.

“Well,” he replied, “I know why you couldn’t drive the peg in.”

“Oh really? Why?”

He got a funny look on his face.

“There’s cement under that part of the ground.”

I dried my ear with the corner of a towel.

“You mean to tell me, I spent twenty minutes trying to drive a plastic peg into a slab of cement with a wooden hammer?”

“Pretty much.”

“Where’d the cement come from?”

Again that look.

“You remember the old barbecue pit?”

“The one you removed so we could have a backyard wedding twenty-seven years ago?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“What about it?”

“Seems I missed a bit.”


We’re not quite sure how we’ll work around this little glitch, but I’m of the opinion, and The Mister backs me up on this, that there’s very little that can’t be fixed with a discrete application of duct tape. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Later I waked out to the garden and whispered, “What do you think, Jill? Except for that one corner, the peggin’s almost done.”

“Oh darling,” I heard her reply. “You’re just a Christian with a few doubts and a lot of questions. I’d never call you a Pagan.”

More laughter. And this time, some of it was mine.

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  1. Joan 'Joannie' Jolin
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful as always, Penny-Anne. I especially like it that you gathered the tiles without knowing what they were meant for. I picture your little memorial to your friend and love it. Perhaps one day when Guy and I take a drive to Amherstburg you’ll let us spend a moment or two there?

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      Of course, dear Joannie!

  2. Heather Ferdinand
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. You are one of a kind so special. I somehow think your friend was with you chasing the cloth.pounding the pegs and laughing with you….perhaps she was in the wind. Lol about the peggin/ pagon reference very clever.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted June 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the kind words, Heather! And you’re right – Jill is very close in the space I’m making for her. So comforting and healing for me. :-)

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