Of those who live in Moldovan villages, nearly every family keeps a garden. It is also true for homeowners in towns and cities. My host mother’s garden goes beyond sustenance, though: it is a place of gathering and quiet thought for those who pass through.
Moldovan gardens are sources of sustenance and of pride.
Anna, my Gagauz host mother – my Moldovan grandmother – spends her mornings and her nights there, hour to hour, for all of the spring and summer and fall months. She digs, weeds, fiddles, plants, replants, sweeps, fidgets, pulls, picks and arranges. She’s also notorious for enlisting help, particularly from the menfolk for the heavywork; it’s their role. (She’s a china doll woman, of short slight stature – but she goes hard when she’s got to do it herself!). She doesn’t shy from asking the girls to tidy, either.
I’ve spent uncountable long days in Anna’s garden. As spring has broken, Anna has encouraged me to walk barefoot in the green. She always thinks of the energy, the nature, and their exchange. I’ve seen her do it myself, naked soles in the garden
She’s right, like she’s almost always right. I’ve gone there to write, to cry, to distance, to breathe. It’s broad, maybe a hectare!, and not short of hideyholes. No matter the day or the feeling, I come away from her garden refreshed.
The space is inclusive. In the Russian language, there is the сад (sahd), generally reserved for vegetables; and there is the огород (ogoroad), which we might consider the orchard. Anna plants fruit, flowers, and veg – she has cherry trees, pear trees, plum and apple; there are gooseberries and currants, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. There is a липа (we call it linden) from which some harvest tea leaves.
Oh, the vegetables! The summer is the height of their harvest. Anna grows cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes; onions, beetroot and spinach; there’s always garlic and green onion. Other vegetables come and go.
I’ll miss the produce more than anything else (barring the people, perhaps) when I go. Moldova has the freshest, sweetest I’ve tasted.
This garden is Anna’s heart. We say that her home has no soul when she’s gone – the walls don’t warm without her presence! The same is true for her garden. (The cat’s always out, too; Anna says it’s not a good sign when a home’s cat disappears). There is a texture of stick and harshly tilled earth in all of its disorder – cultivated freedom. It is, I think, the closest a human space can come to wildness.
The following pictures are a collection from Anna’s garden from the nearly two years I’ve lived in her home: