December 1 dawned cold and clear, with the winter’s first brushing of frost on the roofs of the cars and houses nearby. (God I love California — no frost until December! Fabulous.)

Even so, I was able to spend most of the day outside, first on a long walk near the ocean and then tackling the first of our wildly overgrown garden beds to go under the knife. For five hours. I am now sore and tired, but happy that I can finally look out my kitchen window without revulsion.

Gardening is a wonderful thing, a habit acquired only of late. There is something very Zen-like about the constant bending and plucking, the hefting of dirt and turning of roots. When you’re caught up in those simple, repetitive motions, everything else goes away for a while. It’s like running used to be, before I overdosed on it and got bored.

There is something extremely satisfying about the art of making things grow. Similarly, the destruction I have wreaked upon large swaths of my garden (alas, not large enough!) is also very gratifying. Plants are very black and white in their affections. Treat them well, they live. Treat them poorly, they die. Unlike in human relations, there are no gray areas.

But most importantly of all, gardening makes me feel close to my grandmother. My growing interest in the world of plants coincided with the last few months of her life, which perhaps not coincidentally also saw the two of us becoming closer than we’d been since I was a child. In fact, now that I think of it, I used to play in the garden with her back then, too.

In the last days of her life, I told her about my garden to help take her mind off of the pain and fear that had accompanied her to the hospital. Talking about my fuchsias and even our never ending battle with oxalis seemed to cheer her to no end. Now, in these days without her, I cheer myself in turn by spending time in the garden, telling her about all the things growing in my soil and my life. Call it strange, but it really does help me, just as it did her.