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Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heartby Carol Wall
I never liked getting my hands dirty. This was one reason that
our yard looked so sad. But there were other reasons, too—
bigger reasons that were much harder to confront than brittle
grass and overgrown bushes.
Its not that I was ignoring our yard on purpose. Every once
in a while we hired someone to plant or trim something. My
husband, Dick, did his share of mowing. But he never did it happily.
We werent yard-proud the way some people are. And when
the kids were young, there was always something more important
than yard work to do. Going to one of their games or events,
running them to school and lessons, or shepherding them to
doctor appointments—all those things ranked way higher on
our list of priorities.
Once the kids were grown, I still managed to find more important
things to do. I much preferred reading a book, or watching
a documentary on TV, or going out to dinner with Dick
to pruning a bush. I loved our house, and I enjoyed decorating
the inside, but there was never anything about maintaining a
house that I enjoyed. In some couples, one spouse makes up for
the flaws of the other. But for better or worse, my beloved
spouse and I shared the same flaw in this department. Neither
of us was handy. We ignored our loose front doorknob until it
went from shaky to wobbly and finally fell off when we tried to
exit the house one evening. Dick watched it fall to the hardwood
floor with a thunk, then looked at me and said, Time to move.”
I dont think we were entirely wrong in holding on to our
low-intervention policy. Once when Dick and I were walking
through town, we were stopped by a group of young women
who were celebrating their friends upcoming wedding. They
were asking all the obviously married women they saw for advice
for the new bride. I said, You know, my life really began
when I got married.” They all laughed and told me that I was the
first woman theyd stopped who hadnt said, Dont do it.” Then
I told them that my best advice was not to approach marriage
like it was an arrangement between property co-owners. It
seemed to me like too many people spent too much of their time
taking care of their houses instead of enjoying their spouses.
And where was the fun in that?
I liked to think that it was a valid philosophy of life that kept
me out of the yard, and not just sheer laziness. In any case, to
me, even worse than digging out a screwdriver to fix our doorknob
would have been digging in the dirt. I had zero interest in
that area of our property. I dont think I even really looked at it.
Then one day, I noticed that our yard had slowly, gradually
transformed itself. No longer could I flatter myself that it was
natural and unmanicured because that was the aesthetic I preferred.
No, our yard wasnt just rough around the edges. It had
become a genuine embarrassment. Maybe we didnt have the
worst yard on the block. But we were close to it, and one good
mowing in our most neglectful neighbors yard might easily
nudge us into the bottom slot. And that just wouldnt do. I
might never have been yard-proud, but I did not want to be
So I decided that it was time to do something about this situation.
It was a fixable problem, after all—and how nice it was to
have one of those.
When I passed our neighbor Sarahs yard I couldnt help seeing
what an amazing job her gardener had done. Sarah was a
master gardener herself, but recently shed gotten busy at work
and had brought in some help. And even I could tell that a true
artist was at work there. Maybe I could hire her gardener, I
thought to myself. And then our yard would be as beautiful as
hers. It would be healthy and lush and well taken care of—
just the way I wanted to be myself.
A few days later I saw the mystery gardener in the flesh—
the artist whod wrought such a miracle transformation in my neighbors
yard—and it was kismet. Love at first sight. No, it wasnt
the kind of love that causes you to question your marriage. It
was the kind of love that causes you to question yourself. The
kind that makes you want to be a better person. The kind that
changes your life completely.
His name was Giles Owita, and from the start, something
flowered between us and around us. First he became my gardener,
and then he became my friend. And while I knew from
the moment I met him that he was someone special—
truly, I didnt know the half of it.
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