The Gardener

Once again, time has come to prune the roses. Throughout summer, my neighbors and friends have admired the lovely little cluster of rose bushes they call my rose garden.

The name, rose garden, brings back a most spectacular vision of Shiraz, in particular the Eram garden on a summer day. I remember walking under the tall cypress trees and how the citrus aroma mixed with the fragrance of roses made me dizzy. Some days, I took my sandwich to a garden near the hospital and enjoyed a break in the serenity of the flowers that surrounded me. Those magnificent gardens now remain a faded photograph in the album of my memories.

Some horticulturists claim that roses-like jasmines and violets-originated in Persia. I love to fall back on such studies and brag even more! That may be why the onlooker's comments make me double proud of what I have achieved. As if it's up to the Persian to preserve the dignity of roses!

I struggle to wear my gardening gloves-too stiff from drying outside-and start the labor of love. As the old garden shears squeak, I'm reminded of the need to sharpen them. Even through the gloves I can feel the thorns on my roses, but that's a small price to pay for the joy they bring into my life. As I detect a variety of diseases on their leaves, it makes me sad. This has been a particularly hard year for my flowers. If it wasn't the snails, they had to deal with aphid, rust and all sorts of other pests. I clean away the affected leaves and prune the bushes down to mere stalks in hopes of healthier roses in spring.

By late afternoon, I clean the rose-bed and stuff the trash in a black plastic bag, then gather the few rose buds I have salvaged and place them in a vase: My last harvest of the year.

Looking back, my garden is now a bare plot of land, nothing but a few silly little naked branches, but I see the promise of flowers by No-Rooz.

I straighten my aching back and go to the kitchen for a glass of hot cardamom tea. My garden will not need me for a while. Once more, I will have to let nature take over. For now, my job's done. I can wish the frost away, pray for more rain and perhaps from time to time spread some plant food to ensure their strength. But there will be no more hard work for months to come.

That sounds good.

Then, why can't I be happy?

Oh, I know why. I am sad because as a gardener, I want to do more. I was born to nurture. I need to give back to the earth the love that it has planted in me. Without that, I am useless.

That's how it was with my children, wasn't it? I raised them, gave them all I had to give and watched them grow into full blossoms. Then one day, my job was done! I had to stand back and let nature take over. I wished the harm away and prayed for good things to happen to them and, yet, I felt utterly empty.

From time to time I continue to provide the needed nourishment. But I must have done a good job raising them, for that need doesn't arise often. I find it unbearable to stand back and watch. Impossible as it is, I have to stop hoping to be needed. As parents, we all do.

I join my circle of friends once a week for an afternoon tea. We talk of our children in a variety of ways, but we all know too well, the garden will continue to flourish with or without further assistance from us.

Worry is the unspoken theme of our gatherings. We talk of politics and economy. We speak about films and music, exchange recipes and compliment each other on our looks. But deep down, we're all gardeners taking a break.

We straighten our aching backs with pride, wish the harm away and anticipate the look of awe in our neighbor's faces.

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a freelance writer, poet and artist. She lives in San Diego, California.

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