Being uprooted

By Jeanne Arnold

My organic garden decades ago

Good morning! I look out the window at our beautiful backyard with vegetables and perennials growing quickly each day. I transplanted perennials last year from my daughter’s garden that came with their house. 

My yard is art for me. Like a jigsaw puzzle that’s never finished, you always have pieces to fit into the scheme of it. Good thing my yard is small or I’d be spending more days and weeks devoted to my garden on a grander scale. I have enough to do grooming my compost piles.

When I was young, I never thought that I would eventually enjoy gardening so much. I was into basketball and volleyball, but those games need a team and another team to beat. Playing baseball in right field was boring. I loved tennis and played competitively for years. It was when I became a property owner and a mother that I started to garden. My children and I rescued a timid but large Blandings box turtle from the middle of the road. She loved the salad greens I grew. She also tolerated swimming with my two children in a kiddie pool in the yard and endured baby buggy rides until she escaped, hopefully to be saved in the middle of another road or escaped to the Root River where she belonged.

During WW II, my mother planted a victory garden and when she was gone, I had my own little victory garden with lettuce and radishes and marigolds. I often tell, when someone listens, about hauling my wagon full of buffalo dung fresh from the zoo but it was too strong for her garden. I wonder what she did with it? When my dad was away, I pushed the heavy manual lawn mower with its dull blades to cut the grass. The few simple plants along the south side of the house would dry up from neglect but the trumpeter vine and that yucca plant that we brought back from our 1936 trip to California thrived.

I have a yucca plant too, and a trumpeter vine that I hope will survive.

Digging in the dirt and tending to plants is healing. I lose myself in it, even when I enjoy music through my earphone from the tape deck stashed in my jean’s back pocket. I love music from Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Carol King and listening over and over to Jean Huston telling her stories. As my hands and arms, back and legs move about nurturing the earth, music and ideas and creativity reach into my mind. It’s a fabulous combination and it shuts out distractions like my otherwise quiet neighbor swearing at his sons.

Trees. I have too many trees competing against each other for space. What a jumble the tree roots must make under the surface, all those roots stretching to find nourishment and space to grow.

My grandson is now 30 year old.

I’m happy my daughter and her husband are interested in a small garden. That gives us more to talk about and share. And Cody, my four-year-old grandson too. He keeps me up to date talking gardening. I’ll take him to the garden shops with me to look for the Forget-Me-Not seeds or plants that he wanted.

He’s like my young tree and his roots are invisible connections to the earth; roots are growing as he gains his values and his character from his experiences in his young life. What a tree he will be for all of us to appreciate and love.

My children and their children are my most valuable, my most precious plants. I love to watch them mature and gain wisdom for the ground of their being. 

What a challenge I gave them when I walked away from their stable and safe home base—to be a lesbian. 

Talk about pruning! It was I who lopped off myself from established roots. Take a traditional plant and chop it in pieces. Combine two garden forks, their backsides against each other to make a wedge. Slam the prongs into the top mass of foliage. Pull the fork handles apart to break the soil, to split the roots. Go for the taproot, the center stem that goes down, down. Leverage against those stubborn roots. Axe and snap them until the taproot tears loose and gives way. Dig out that huge clump. Unbraid the twisted and twined roots. 

Then with caring hands, transplant those roots into different places and add uniquely nourishing ingredients to soften the trauma of being so cruelly divided.

Make a new garden with me, my dear ones, and become even stronger in new earth filled with my nutrients and grow — grow into healthy, vigorous plants — and bloom.


I shudder when I am made aware

of the depth of humanness,

of the profound wrenching force

that lies within persons

to be called on when needed.

I stagger in this power

that can unleash the potential 

of all that is human:

anger, fear, grief, 

strength, love, joy.



Graphics by Mary Nelson

Next week— “We love Paris on a Segway”

UNsung Women: the UN-known Herstory History

Samiria Gbisis and Loreen Greene Mohr are our SUNG woman for April and March. More UNsung women nominees will be selected for May and June, 2022. 

Submit written nominations about past or present women from Racine/Kenosha whose contributions to the wellbeing of our families, churches, schools, communities and beyond who have not or have been UNder acknowledged.

The nominator is asked to provide:

• answers to Who, What, When, Where, How and Why details of your nominee’s herstory in a document or resume format.

• photographs, drawings, illustrations to enhance herstory;

• a reference person or documentation serving as evidence of proof.

Submit your nomination details to <> with your name and where you may be reached.


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