A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables…

Mimosa Tree hanging over the entry gate to the frog pond…

A friend recently loaned me a copy of Joan Dye Gussows book “Growing, Older – a Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables” and I loved every page! I was amazed at how many similarities there are in our lives! Her husband of 40 years died when she was about the same age as I was when my husband of 41 yrs. died. She is a passionate gardener, environmentalist, nutritionist and writer who in her old age grows much of her own food. One of the things I love about the book was reading about her struggles with critters and Mother Nature – and her sense of humor around it all, as well as her “dogged persistence” in carrying on in spite of the challenges. It was a great read and I recommend it to all you gardeners out there – young and old!

A view of the sunset from Meditation Mount

I was about to say that it would take a lot to dampen my enthusiasm for gardening when I suddenly remembered that I actually discovered in my mid 50’s what it took! My husband and I were in a sort of transition stage in our lives, where we were looking for something new to do and somewhere new to do it. Through a string of interesting synchronicities (which I will write about one day), we found ourselves as the Head of Maintenance and Head Gardener (actually the ONLY one of each!) at a beautiful place called Meditation Mount in the Ojai Valley in California. The landscaped grounds were about 10 acres with 4 homes, a large office building, a conference center, parking lot and a special public garden that ran out to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the whole Ojai valley and the daily sunset! The valley is filled with orange and avocado groves and is quite a magical place. But gardening on that hot, dry hilltop was a challenge. In the summer I would start work before the sun came up to beat the heat and for the first time in my many years of gardening I put my back “out” – rather regularly!

Meditation Mount – sunset view point

Perhaps it was gardening as a profession instead of as a “hobby” that took the joy out of it – perhaps it was caring for a huge public place and so often working around visitors. I’m not sure. I DID meet some wonderful people from all over the world as I worked there. But whatever it was – it wasn’t really until I moved back to Oregon that my joy in gardening returned – with great gusto! I was SO relieved! I had really missed it, and didn’t know how to get it back! I gardened in Florida, but was spending so much time taking care of a dying husband and then two dying parents that I didn’t have a huge amount of energy left for gardens, I guess. So I was truly delighted when I discovered in my first spring back in Oregon that it had returned!! It always wanes a bit toward the end of summer and I am happy when the cool weather and rains revive my enthusiasm as well as the garden.

I feel really blessed to have a big garden and a big passion for working in it toward the end of my seventh decade of life! Like Joan Gussow, I have no interest in “exercising”, but give me a garden to play in and I’ll work out all day!



  1. Such a beautiful and inspiring article, Barb! I don’t garden at this time, but I used to help my mother with hers. Having to push too hard at anything can make something we love stressful and cause it to lose some of its inner light temporarily. I am so glad that you revived your passion for gardening in Oregon. Your home and garden are certainly one of the most healing, paradise-like places I have visited.


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