When I first moved to my rural farm, my two daughters, ages 4 and 5, were with me. We planted peas next to the area that would become my first herb garden. It was late to plant peas for our region, and, as you can imagine, children that age aren’t a lot of help planting anything. But it was a pleasant activity filled with hope for my first garden in this location, and I was happy for their participation. That was one of the last times I saw my daughters.
They disappeared from my life soon after that. Their mother moved to another state and kept them from me, changing their names and moving several times. Those events led to difficult years for me — years in which I wasn’t sure I wanted to survive without my children. The garden, though, was comforting and healing, and I threw myself into my work as it became an ever-larger entity in my life.
I planted an herb garden that spring, first with a few herbs, then eventually enlarging it to several hundred varieties. I began growing herbs I wasn’t familiar with, learning their flavors and uses through trial and error. I enlarged the herb garden to include medicinals, as well as indigenous and imported culinary herbs.
Fighting the constant nightmares relating to the loss of my daughters, I found my way to the subject of dream pillows — focusing on herbs that ease nightmares and soothe stress. That led me to write about what I’d learned, telling others about the wonderful effects the fragrances of flowers and herbs can have on dreams, and how they had influenced mine. Those discoveries led me to write three books on dream pillows and to develop a variety of dream pillow formulas for various uses — formulas I continue to use and market through my herb business.
Over the years, I tried a variety of unsuccessful methods for finding my children. Eventually I decided that publicity and writing might be the answer. I wrote more books on herbal subjects, wrote for a variety of magazines and penned newspaper columns. I sought publicity for the garden anywhere I could, and found it, through a wide range of feature articles in magazines as well as local and national television shows. Friends often accused me of being a publicity hound. I was. I hoped that one day, one or both of my children might see an article about me in my garden, or see me on a television program, remember the days when they helped me plant my first garden and feel compelled to contact me.
In June 2003, it happened. My oldest daughter, now 29, saw an article about me. In it, she saw one of my books, Making Herbal Dream Pillows, featured. She bought the book at her local bookstore. Upon opening it, she read the dedication to her and her sister, written many years before. She could see that I had, indeed, wanted my daughters all of those years.
My daughter contacted me, first by e-mail, then quickly by telephone, and we eagerly began communicating. She reminded me that the last thing I told her was that if she was ever lonely or missed me, to look up at the moon and know I would be somewhere, looking at the same moon. I was elated that she remembered that tiny morsel of our past.
In August, I drove to the city where she now lives to see her and to meet my 3-year-old grandson. We spent many hours catching up on each other’s lives. Soon, I also was able to reconnect with my younger daughter.
There is no making up for the 25 lost years, but some very good things came out of those difficult years. That first garden we planted together did grow and continues to do so today. I also found hope in sharing what I learned through writing. My dream of finding my daughters has come true, and I wanted to share it with you, my readers and friends. We never know what fruit our efforts will bear, nor how long. May you, too, find hope and joy in your garden and in those souls you hold dear.
Jim Long’s gardens and recipes can be viewed at www.Longcreekherbs.com.