By Martha Zink for The Island Connection
The Kiawah Island Garden Club was inspired by a talk presented by Dick Wall, husband of Carol Wall, author of Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening.
Pat Conroy has said “the most powerful words in the English Language are ‘tell me a story’ ”.
Carol, who was an English teacher in Roanoke, VA and contributor to Southern Living, met Mr. Owita in 2002 when she hired him to help resurrect her mess of a yard. As she got to know him she also was diagnosed with a second breast cancer and his wisdom and grace changed her garden and her fearful self. She wanted to write about her cancer but it wasn’t until she saw how Giles Owita faced his own medical problems, his working as a gardener when he couldn’t get a professorship with his PhD in horticulture from Kenya, that she decided to marry the two stories and bring her book to life.
The highly successful book (recommended by Oprah and the New York Times book review) is about “why we garden, not how to garden” and reflects the view that “gardening is all about connection”. With an open heart Carol could approach her own life, when the original script she’d written didn’t work out and she needed to find Plan B with gracious acceptance.
Carol died in 2014 just as the book was published and her husband honored her wish that he spread the word, having so far been to 200 events in 27 states. When speaking to cancer groups he emphasizes “healing vs. curing”. Curing is easy to understand but with metastatic disease you don’t talk about cure, but about prolonging and healing: a spiritual concept of being whole. As Mr. Owita said, “Every day brings something good.”
Carol Wall concluded “The ground in winter which is yellow, gray, and hard as a brick…the garden in winter holds a thousand lovely secrets.”
Carol and Dick’s son is a cinematographer who has produced a documentary and there are hopes for a feature film. Meanwhile Dick Wall spreads the word, with humor and insight.
The Garden Club will next meet at 9:30 a.m. on March 12 at the Kiawah Municipal Center for the dedication of the sundial the club is installing in the garden to honor past, present and future members of the club who have done so much to beautify the island. The dedication will be followed by a presentation entitled “Landscaping for the Weather,” by landscape architect John Tarkanay.
Visit KiawahGardenClub.org for further details.