The new gardener

I have begun to garden. It is after 2 AM and I am wide awake, thinking—and now writing—about my garden.

I am fascinated by my new garden. It is an inherited plot at the community garden, and my plot and those surrounding it are fascinating to me. I like watching things spring up and open, and guessing who has been delinquent in their plot maintenance and who—like Tom of the butterfly garden, who may be willing to give me some of his irises, grown short this year in the early, dry heat (all according to Geneva, who gardens a nearby plot)—is simply waiting for the right time to enact his plan, to whose madness there is a method.

I like learning the names of things: alyssum, bee balm, daphne, lupine, heuchera, Paul Robeson tomatoes. I like to watch the garden sprout new and unexpected things, like the set of tiny, less-than-a-pinky-nail-sized leaves that emerged today, leaves mottled purple, leaves that I will not pull under the possibility that they are a something. I like the mystery, the suggestion of it.

I like Geneva, and Tom, and Susan, my plot neighbor who watered my plants on a hot dry day and who gave me rhubarb, of which I promptly made a sauce in a Laurie Colwin–style (and decidedly un-Janna White–style) improv: remove the leaves from the stalks (they are poisonous) and wash the stalks; cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces and put them in a saucepan with just enough water so they don’t burn; add lemon, cinnamon, and sugar, and cook until saucelike. I like the sauce that came out of this improvisation; it was promptly eaten warm over ice cream on the sort of hot, muggy day on which one should be eating fruit and ice cream.

I like the fern-like fronds of my oriental poppy (inherited from the plot’s previous owner, that blessed soul), and the large pods that were until recently buried among them and are now rising and growing and soon to burst open. I like waiting for that to happen, and suspect I may even turn out to like the waiting better than the bursting, though I have no doubt I will like that, too.

I like that I am now among the class of people who can identify plants on sight. (I used to think I could never be a poet because I had never identified, nor identified with, a plant, as so many poets seemed to so thoughtfully do. Though, now that I think of it, a bleeding heart did make an appearance in a moody teenage poem of mine, perhaps prophetically, as I now have a bleeding heart in my unmoody garden.)

I have been dreaming of the garden. I dreamed of ramps, though I have never actually seen one. I dreamed that my zinnias stood straight up. My zinnias in real life do not stand straight up. I have drawn no fewer than five maps of my garden, four to plan how I would fit the growing collection of starters on my porch into the plot, and one to map the way I actually planted them, which was like a distant relative of the first four, and which is at present imprinted in my memory, a little map of a little wondrous world that is slowly letting me in on its secrets.


(Note: This was originally written, in slightly longer form, freehand in my notebook sometime after 2 AM on Saturday morning, when I was wide awake and thinking of my garden.)

One Comment

  • sally knight on Jun 17, 2015 Reply

    I just decided to get on the web – can’t even remember why now – and decided to click on your site (which is the first thing that always comes up). Love this commentary. I’ve been thinking about your garden and wondering how it’s all going – and you AGAIN, so beautifully, related what’s happening in a way that goes beyond just describing and makes me think about my own experiences and feelings, and the joys of discovery. Thank you, my beautiful girl!

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