Cultivated: A dog and a garden

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at UVic

Just over a year ago, my dog was killed by car. I wasn’t there – she had been at Windsor park with my father – so I only saw her dead at the hospital afterwards: her body still warm, her fur still silky soft, her body thick and solid but the gorgeous thrumming life of her gone.

It was a profoundly difficult winter. For a month, it felt like I had to heave each word up from a creative well that had run entirely dry. I had no energy.

Which terrified me.

Which is, apparently, grief.

So why write of it now? Because even though my sadness felt bottomless, even though every time I stepped outside or opened a door and expected her there, the garden remained constant in its demands. Through freeze and thaw, windstorm and weather, the garden wrenched me from flat sadness into rage, frustration and delight. Feeling – any feeling – to the bereft means care, for the self or the world, it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s there.

I often think about how my garden grew commensurately with the growth of my son. As he moved out in the world, I welcomed more living things that needed me: more plants, more soil, more spaces. Was it solely a matter of having more time to garden? Or was it some other need to nurture? To care not only about, but for?

No surprise then, that I got said dog from the Humane Society a month after my son moved away for university. She was young, untrained, and in our first week together so unruly in the garden I tethered her to my waist so I could work. She ate everything: compost riddled with avocado pits (bad for dogs) and oyster shells (not great either); sticks and stems and plastic tags and, and, and…she was insufferable.

She was also impossibly affectionate and cute.

When she died, I spent hours in the greenhouse huddling out of the wind, seeding in a frenzy, planting Dianthus and Cobea too soon, twitchy to transplant and pot things on. Growth: I needed to witness it. Seeding flowers helped me imagine a future in colour.

This year, in the roar of March, I was tired of being alone while I worked outside. I found an older dog, another rescue, who now shambles about the garden, not eating a thing. He lolls, he rolls, he rampages occasionally through the borders, but most of the time reclines sniffing the breeze. I suppose he suits me now—calmer and older, the both of us.

Another spring has come and with it another round of seedlings and hope. It’s the season of making promises: to water, to tend, to clip, to feed. What is spring for a gardener, if not committing to care?

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria.

Just Posted

Thousands attend 31st TD Art Gallery Paint-In

Artists display their work along 20 blocks of Moss Street

Details scarce as union confirms probe underway involving Victoria care homes

Island Health, VicPD offer no comment on report of investigation into alleged sexual assaults

Swimmer set for double crossing of Georgia Strait

Jill Yoneda’s Aug. 3 swim will benefit Canuck Place

Sport fishing ban protest organizers trolling for attention

Hook-less anglers hitting Sooke area waters July 29 to protest DFO’s summer fin-fish ban

From hot dog to not dog: stuffed toy prompts car break in

The stuffed dog had been in the backseat for 18 years without problems

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan


A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

BC Wildfire update on 14 major Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

UPDATED: Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters defy eviction order

Demonstrators at Camp Cloud in Burnaby say they won’t leave, but will meet with city officials

Ex-Raptor DeMar DeRozan says goodbye to Toronto on Instagram

The guard was traded to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

Most Read