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What The Gardener Knows

Update at bottom:

Infertility makes me feel like I have this great plot of land in my backyard that I’ve been trying to turn into a garden. I’ve planted seeds and I’ve nurtured the small cuttings I’ve transplanted. Nothing takes. The plants die and the seeds never come to fruition. It looks like an empty expanse of dirt to everyone else–they have no clue how much work I’ve put into the garden, how much time I’ve spent trying to get something to grow, how many days I’ve sat by my window staring at the soil and dreaming about what the garden will look like when all the flowers bloom.

Is a flowerless garden still a garden? Am I a gardener if I had plants, but they’re now gone? Does my lack of a garden mean that I’m not a “real” gardener; a “successful” gardener; a “good” gardener? How can we measure intentions and how can we honour the seeds that never make it above the soil? So much of infertility is underground, hidden. Only the gardener knows the intentions for the land, knows what hasn’t grown. Where others see an expanse of dirt, those who have worked the land, scattered the seeds, and nurtured the plants, see a flowerless garden.

At first, I tried to draw this film so it could be as inclusive as Mother Earth’s Flower Shop. But I realized quickly that these were my words and my story–therefore, though the words can be used by anyone, the images reflect the two stages of my journey–trying to conceive the first child(ren) and trying to conceive again. I have thought about making several versions of this movie–two women trying to conceive their first child, a single-mother-by-choice trying to give her first child a sibling, a couple experiencing failed cycles and loss. There may be too many variations to reproduce every story with this song, but I would love for you to suggest your own characters for future incarnations of this video.

I hope it speaks to you too. It certainly wasn’t my original plan for the IIFF–that one involved a singing pee stick. But this was the movie that felt like it needed to be made right now. I hope you can use it too–to explain either to existing children, a friend, or a spouse/partner where the tears come from and the frustrations of being the keeper of this secret garden. Whereas other mothers share their children with the world, infertile gardeners carry the burden of being the only people who have the memory of their unborn children–either dream children, embryos, or babies.

Watch What the Gardener Knows
(if you can’t see the embedded movie below, click the hyperlinked title to get to the movie on Youtube)

Lyrics to What the Gardener Knows

To watch other films in the International Infertility Film Festival, please click here. But before you leave this page, let me know what you think about the film.

You are the Academy of Motion Pictures in this International Infertility Film Festival. Go to the festival post to vote for your favourite movie from the festival.


1 Tigger { 07.27.07 at 8:59 am }

The wilting plant killed me – I was doing fine until then. Oh Mel…it’s beautiful!

2 Jenna { 07.27.07 at 9:50 am }

Another beautiful story. Great work. Something about two painted people hugging just gets me every time!

3 Reproductive Jeans { 07.27.07 at 10:21 am }

Beautiful Mel…..

4 Lori { 07.27.07 at 11:02 am }

Thoughts as I watched.

1. Deep. Stuff goes on where you can’t see. In soil In people. Don’t pass judgments because you can’t know all that is below.

2. Not-yet flower. Such as sad phrase, yet so full of hope.

3. You and Josh have planted other things, too (besides flowers). Things that are growing beautifully in your well-cultivated, well-tended soil. Things like community, songs, films, stories, etc. You don’t know where your seeds will scatter, and the difference they will make to the world.

4. The crying makes me cry.

Once again, I’m in awe.

5 DD { 07.27.07 at 11:20 am }

Truly an important message for our loved ones. Tears sometimes reflect what’s going on in the inside, not outside.

6 Sunny { 07.27.07 at 12:58 pm }

Just beautiful! It broke my heart and yet captured how I feel each month! You continue to amaze me~!

7 Pamela Jeanne { 07.27.07 at 1:05 pm }

Great imagery — in particular the somewhat frantic hoeing over the dried earth. So many complex ideas and emotions tied up in this infertility experience. Sometimes it feels like we’re only scratching the surface.

Thanks, too, for watching my “film.” It was hard to make for all the obvious reasons.

8 Z { 07.27.07 at 3:58 pm }

again, stick figures with their song and stories have left a crying mess. yet again, it is brilliant. thank you!

9 Anonymous { 07.27.07 at 5:58 pm }

I was crying at the end of the first stanza and it turned to out-right sobs by “Hope is the root of it all”. So beautiful and so true. I am counting down the last days until my latest should-be due date and it is hard.

10 Inconceivable { 07.27.07 at 6:50 pm }

thank you for putting pictures and melodies to my feelings – Farah

11 Dianne/Flutter { 07.27.07 at 7:22 pm }

Thank you. It was beautiful.

12 Vee { 07.28.07 at 12:51 am }

Gorgeous Mel. You have done it again, well done.

13 KarenO { 07.28.07 at 2:18 am }

This is really beautiful, and heartbreaking, thanks for sharing Mel!

14 LJ { 07.28.07 at 1:13 pm }

Mel –

You both are getting better and better at this. The song, melodically is perfect for your range, and the graphics are so sweet. I love the mix of paint and pictures. Of course your lyrics/poetry are second to none.

15 Samantha { 07.28.07 at 3:43 pm }

What a beautiful film. Your voice is lovely.

16 Bea { 07.29.07 at 12:08 am }

First of all, I hope you’re not planning to say “singing pee stick” and leave it at that.

Secondly, well, you know I love your songs, and your pictures have really developed into a style of their own. And I’m not saying that in a dubious tone of voice, I mean it in a positive way. You give reality to the not-yet-flowers, and I like that.


17 Cibele { 07.29.07 at 2:13 pm }

Mel, just so beautiful.

18 wishingfor2 { 07.29.07 at 8:00 pm }

I love your voice. I sing your songs in my head. 🙂


19 Jules { 07.29.07 at 11:20 pm }

Great clip, great lyrics & great vocals.

Another fantastic movies from the Town criers.

Congrats Mel & Josh.

Jules xoxoxo

20 Southern Comfortable { 07.30.07 at 6:53 am }

Just beautiful.

21 Beagle { 07.30.07 at 3:04 pm }

As always, these were great! The whole film festival is wonderful! Bravo!

22 Starfish { 07.30.07 at 7:31 pm }

This was really great Mel. Such a great analogy. And I keep having this funny vision of me so exasperated in my garden that I go over to the neighbors yard and drag over a big potted flower into the middle of my barren plot of dirt. Brava!!

23 Drowned Girl { 08.01.07 at 4:31 am }

Both your films are amazing. I hope I get the chance to use them BOTH.

24 PCOSMama { 08.02.07 at 1:46 pm }

WOw, you can write and sing and create movies! I’m so in awe of you!
Beautiful… sad, but so beautiful.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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