The Gardener

My name is Lesley Mills.  I work as an Executive Director for a large non-profit.  It is a position that is both challenging and rewarding.  I feel very fortunate to work in a great place with great people.  But the greater joy comes after a long day when I put on jeans and gardening gloves and go to the garden followed by my dogs.  I find an extraordinary sense of peace and satisfaction in the dirt.  Nature teaches me a lot about patience and love and reveling in the magical mystery around me.

I am married to Jim MacIndoe a retired Navy man who is a crazed Boston Celtics fan and an ardent collector of many things, namely cars and clocks.  I indulge him his passions.  He indulges me mine.  It’s a good match.

As a young girl, I watched my grandmother tend faithfully to her roses and tomatoes and a host of other plants.  I would be much older before I recognized the love she passed on to me of things which grow in the ground.

My grandmother was a good cook who made homemade bread and plates of salad culled from her garden.  She made the perfect roast beef.    I never gave it any thought that she was more than the food she grew and cooked, the presents she wrapped for us, the beds she made sure were clean and warm for a long night’s rest.    I took my grandmother for granted.  It was never intentional.  Rather, like most things, it is another example of the things and people we assume will always be there, only to find when they are not how much we miss them.

My grandmother did not complain of the wood burning stove she stoked daily to cook the daily fare, or the Sunday dinners we all attended. She found purpose, I believe, waiting on us.  We sang her praises as the savory roast beef arrived from the oven and the bread lay perfectly leavened before us.   She waited a long time before giving in to more contemporary cooking inventions.  Before that moment arrived I will always remember the crackling wood giving heat to the stove she used and my grandmother’s tireless devotion to creating food that fed our hunger and our senses.

My grandmother danced with grace as my grandfather twirled her around the kitchen.  She cheered the San Francisco Giants religiously each Sunday and many more times in between while watching her cherished TV or by listening to her portable radio she took everywhere with her including into the garden.  I wonder now to a degree that I didn’t then what passions and hopes she carried within her that we never knew.

I told myself I would not grow up like my grandmother, because I thought she gave up too much of herself to please those around her, but now I see the foolishness of such thoughts.  My grandmother’s life was not perfect but neither has been the life I have carved for myself in defiance of hers and my mother’s and all the others I may have judged in between.

My grandma, Agnes, and me in her treasured garden.

My garden and all that comes from it is a reflection of what I have learned and keep learning.  Like my grandmother, I grow tomatoes and nurture roses.  On rarer occasions I bake bread, not as well as my grandmother, but certainly with the memory of her and the comfort she gave me each time I visited her.  There are parts of my grandmother I will never know, but I figure the garden is probably the best place I can honor her memory and create a few of my own.

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