THIS ( PAR­ADISE LOST) LIFE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints - MOL­LIE TUCKER

INOW know the cat­a­clysmic ef­fect of a ‘‘ scorched earth’’ pol­icy. A year ago my hus­band and I left our home of 46 years. In 1960, our gar­den did not ex­ist. There was no land­scap­ing with the deal. The area had been mar­ket gar­dens and al­mond or­chards. Our plot was the end of the line and the dump­ing ground for build­ing de­bris. There was noth­ing. Not a weed. Turn­ing the back yard into a gar­den took much of the 46 years.

My hus­band turned a clay desert of baked earth into a mini par­adise vis­ited reg­u­larly by green par­rots, galahs, top- knot pi­geons, sul­phur- crested cock­a­toos and gen­er­a­tions of beloved mag­pies. Our first fam­ily cat was buried in his favourite cor­ner of the gar­den in a hand­made wooden box.

Camel­lias bloomed in mid­win­ter. A frangi­pani re­galed us with per­fumed cream flow­ers each sum­mer and was the back­drop for fam­ily pho­tos. A macadamia was spot­ted grow­ing suc­cess­fully in the botanic gar­dens and we grew one suc­cess­fully too. The flow­ers were mag­nif­i­cent and the fruit was a chal­lenge.

A mag­no­lia blos­somed in the front gar­den to take the place of a mag­nif­i­cent claret ash that had given us happy hours of au­tumn leaf crunch­ing, sweep­ing and, in those days, fra­grant bon­fires. A cherry tree came and went. Such losses were keenly felt.

In the 1960s shrub roses along the fence were al­most manda­tory. Years of choos­ing, prun­ing and shar­ing gave us roses to ad­mire all sum­mer, to take into the house to en­joy, and to re­mind us of friends long gone. Such ex­quis­ite blooms.

Re­tire­ment came with thoughts of travel. I trav­elled. He stayed home to mind the cat, the galah, the mag­pies and the gar­den. It be­came a life’s work.

Years of mulching and worm bins had cre­ated un­be­liev­ably rich soil. This was trans­ferred to a vegie gar­den. Straw­ber­ries were a chal­lenge, but the se­cret was painstak­ingly de­duced and the re­sults de­li­cious. Toma­toes flour­ished along­side herbs of all va­ri­eties. There was sim­ply noth­ing to com­pare with freshly picked gar­den pro­duce out­side the back door.

An avo­cado tree bought at great ex­pense re­mained bar­ren, but a knock­about one gave us the oc­ca­sional thrill of a home- picked avo­cado. The de­light of our life was the Lis­bon lemon that never failed to give us won­der­ful fruit.

The sad part is that I never re­alised un­til it no longer be­longed to us just how much I loved the gar­den or how much I would miss it. The smell of lemon- scented gums is some­thing I would die for. It was even harder for the gar­dener.

The irony is that a re­cent look proved that noth­ing changes and ev­ery­thing stays the same. The prop­erty is to be sub- di­vided and the gar­den has dis­ap­peared.

Al­most ev­ery blade of grass, lov­ingly weeded up to the last minute, ev­ery tree, ev­ery shrub, ev­ery flower has dis­ap­peared. We only hope some of them have gone to good homes ( or, rather, good gar­dens).

In the words of the Dalai Lama, re­mem­ber that not get­ting what you want is some­times a won­der­ful stroke of luck.

this­life@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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