LouJay

Pingelly, Australia

I like to play. I find joy in small things and moments where the edge between conscious looking and subconscious seeing becomes soft...

In celebration of a gardener.

A year and a week ago, my friend Julia died from a prolonged battle with advanced ovarian cancer. She died as she had lived – with a gracefulness and gentleness, connectedness and a consciousness that I can only hope to have when my time comes.

Julia was one of my garden friends, and those that garden will know that connection that happens between gardeners. That connectedness gives me the gift of having such wonderful people right here with me in my garden all the time. There’s a wise, funny and gentle dialogue there for me whenever I want to tap into it and listen. My Grandmother is here, with her strong, short nailed, wrinkled hands, and her love of kohlrabi, picking her oranges, choosing yet another Camellia, my Mum is there with yet another really funky cool succulent for us all to share cuttings from, and her beautiful intuitive way of putting things together, my brother’s partner Nonie is there with her parsley, with her incredible passion for trees, Jill, for whom I used to garden, and who passed away from liver cancer, is there with her amazing sense of colour, and her love and incredible knowledge of heritage roses, my friend (and another lovely lady for whom I gardened) Noreen is here, with all the times we spent together planning and planting, My very very dear friend Sue is here every single time I pot up cuttings in my shadehouse. It feels like so many amazing friends are part of my garden, which is my life.

And Julia is here. The wise and funny, down to earth. Julia who sadly said ‘Oh Lou…’ when I told her I had managed to kill my persimmon tree by planting it, ( and I did know better too) in the middle of a bare paddock with wind from all directions….Julia who said quite matter of factly when I was recovering from my own cancer treatment, that what I needed was to start growing my own vegetables again – and she was right. Julia, who gave my husband and I a stunning bottle of cherry wine, made from her own cherries, for a wedding gift (and I have to say her hawthorn wine and quince wine were to exquisite). Julia is here as I plant lettuce, plan my berry patch, net my orchard. She’s here in the tagasaste trees. I think of her parking her wheelbarrow in the entrance to her vegetable garden to stop the roos getting in, and all the crazy gates with baling twine and funny twicky bits of wire instead of latches and hinges. (Yep, I have those too…..blasted things) I can see her hands and hear her laugh, see the pink roses of shyness in her cheeks when she was speaking to a group – for she did teach permaculture and sustainable gardening, and she was nervous when she had to present.

One week before she died, I spoke with her and we pretty much said goodbye. I told her that she would always be here in my garden, and she replied that a few people had said that to her, and that it was such a lovely thought, to know that she would be in these beautiful gardens all over the state, and indeed spread around the globe.Keep well in all the gardens Julia – they are lovelier places for having you as a part of them.

My vegetable pictures always bring Julia to my mind, for during our last conversation, she teased me about my love of photographing my vegetables – as bragging! And yep, of course there is a little bragging, we are all proud when we grow something beautiful and yummy too – but there is more than that, I revel in the colours and shapes and flavours and textures of food that I grow. So my vegie pics are always with you in mind Julia, and I wish that you were around so I could give you a big luscious print of an artichoke…….. (Kind of explains the art school drop out became gardener….)

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