Every morning I walk around my small garden.
I pick up dog poo as well but that is not as romantic as the picture I am trying to paint of a fresh green lawn (we will ignore the bare patches where the dogs have been digging) and drops caught in the petals of a perfect velvet rose.
I hear bird song but it is too early for the hum of insects (except for flies doing…you know, what flies do).
By the way I just found a Canadian website that ships native predator insects. In about a week I will receive a neat little parcel containing 1000 ladybug larvae and a nest of praying mantises which will hopefully decimate the earwigs eating my peas and the aphids sucking the juice out of my hybrid roses. The rosa rugosas (native, non-genetically altered roses) are doing really well because they are too tough for such nonsense; this is partly why I adore them so. Also they smell delicous- like fresh, lemony, sun, and strawberries captured in a bloom.
Anyway I love this time of summer when things seem to grow inches overnight and pop up all over the place. There are subtle differences each day and they make my heart leap and swell. Today the pink climber rose is in bloom and the red climber will probably unfurl its first flowers tomorrow; the potatoes have grown six inches since yesterday; the trumpet vines have all put out new leaves after looking like dead sticks for the last month. In fact I thought they were dead and may have (ahem) planted clematis too close to them which ensures a vine battle of epic proportions to come. I have hopes that my passionflower which put forth amazing sea anemone-like purple saucer flowers last year and is still in its dead stick dormancy is not far behind.
Then there are seeds sprouting like crazy. Some of them– the nasturtiums and cosmos- I recognize because of their distinctive leaves, others will be a nice surprise. So too, the summer-flowering mystery bulbs my neighbor gave me. I have no idea what they are but the tubers were big, gnarled, hairy things like a fist made of wood and I hardly knew which way up they went. Like a baby in the womb who finally turns itself around, they seem to have figured it out.
Every year I sprinkle wild flower seeds with abandon. Some inside the fence and some along a terraced tier which is on the other side of my fence. My 96-year old grandmother says that a weed is just a flower in the wrong place. I like my weeds. The wild flowers I see on my daily walks- lupin, daisies, dandelion, purple vetch, red clover– grow in profusion and are as pretty to me as any cultivated plant and they usually smell better too. So on that side I have poppies and cornflowers and evening primrose and lupin and buttercup and a whole gang of weeds which I have yet to identify; one with little star-shaped flowers and one with tiny blue blossoms and fuzzy leaves, and it is rampant with buzzing, busy insects who will help keep my bought flowers happy and healthy, and bring me song birds and humming birds and bats.
I’m all about nature balancing itself out. I just need to weed occasionally and let it be. I don’t like to fuss.
I can’t really describe how a garden (any garden) or wild place makes me feel; only that it ties in with my love of beauty in unexpected places (like the wild lupins officially defined as a weed which grow over wasteland and landfill covering all manner of man-made atrocity with upright white, purple, pink, purple and white flowers which remind me of candelabra.
And that my heart and well-being is directly tied in with what my eyes see.
And that when I lost my dearest friend all those years ago and was glutted in grief, hardly able to move or see past the minute, and unable to imagine anything good or better or even anything at all, I made a garden in a rectangle of cracked concrete and garbage, around a tree which had miraculously survived neglect, and slowly I found my way again.
At first it was labor pure and simple. I attacked that concrete slab with a pickaxe and shovel and broke it into irregular squares and I built retaining walls and paths out of it. And then I dug the earth and I made compost and I tended my worms and they tended my garden.
It seemed as if I could have thrust a stick into the ground and it would have grown. If you looked down at my neighborhood from the air, that garden looked like an oasis springing with every color imaginable within squares of dull green and gray.
It was impossible to feel sad in it.
In New York I had 3 acres and so most of it was kept wild. There was a huge lawn but under my care it became a wild meadow. Occasionally we mowed paths in it to keep the ticks down but mostly we just let it do its thing and harbor rabbits and voles and snakes and deer. And beyond that was a small wood. It amazed me then and it still does that a person can own a meadow and a wood. Oh, and also a small creek which flooded every spring. Own it.
It owned me completely.
Now my garden is perhaps 30 feet by 15 feet but it doesn’t matter how small it is. It still fulfills its purpose. It ties me to life.
Yesterday I came across a snake which had been run over either by a bike or an ATV. Its body was twisted into a figure eight and it hissed at me, showing its pale pink mouth, and flung itself about when I tried to pick it up. I think it was broken inside but still it fought. Finally I was able to drape it over a branch and move it into the undergrowth. There are deaths everyday, small and big, and a garden ties me to those as well.
It’s no coincidence that a garden often features in a bigger story about what it is to be human and live. Everyone deserves a garden, everyone needs to get their hands into the earth and turn their faces to the sun, and close their eyes and just breathe.
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