A few years back, owners of a stellar nursery gave me a cardboard box with a twisted root inside, tangled ends clotted with dirt. I planted as directed, and then the bartzella was at the mercy of nature and its own self whether it would grow, or not.
This June, the irises have flooded a purple pond around the lilacs. The mock orange is opening its snowy petals. And these yellow peonies with their ugly name — a few days of inimitable beauty.
A day of cold rain in the forecast today. A Saturday of writing and catch-up chores and my determination to do something about the mold on the bathroom ceiling. It’s mid-June. We’ve lived in this house for five years. The blossoms are rampart. I’ve added my own gifted dull root. For a few days, heart-pausing beauty.
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers…
On this frosty November morning, a few lines from Rebecca Solnit’s newest book:
To garden is to make whole again what has been shattered: the relationships in which you are both producer and consumer, in which you reap the bounty of the earth directly, in which you understand fully how something came into being. It may not be significant in scale, but even if it’s a windowsill geranium high above a city street, it can be significant in meaning.”
I drop my daughter at the high school for soccer practice. There’s maybe 12 high school girls on the field, the music cranked up, kicking balls and laughing. There’s no coach, no boys’ team, no open locker rooms, quite possibly not even a game this year. Just these girls, sunlight, grass, soccer goals.
I’m utterly grateful for this hour and a half, in a way I’ve rarely been grateful before. Just these moments of youth and aliveness.
Who knows what will happen next week when school is scheduled to open, or not. This coming fall? A greater, scarier unknown.
But this afternoon. Here. Now.
So, this Saturday, waking from a dream of Vermont’s enormous Lake Champlain, with its stony shores, the cats and I work through these dark hours as the sun slowly rises, and decide to declare this day the day of sunflowers, apples, tomatoes, and pie.
“We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world.”
Much of my library work these days is talking and listening. Hey, how’s it going? What’s happening? When I listen a little longer, I hear stories of ordinary lives in upheaval — families separated, folks trying to figure out some kind of future.
I hand out books — mostly fiction and mysteries. And I often step outside the library where we keep talking and talking. From the school’s vegetable garden beds, I pick cucumbers and send patrons home with pickle fixings.
That’s about all I have to offer; that little will have to suffice.
In my own garden, the zinnias have gone brushy and wild, brilliant pink. Radishes have flowered and gone to seed. Late afternoons, I wander, barefoot on the cold soil, taking in the colors, breathing the spicy scent of arugula.
Before long, frost will be nipping at my garden, but for now, the pollinators are hungry, the crickets are singing, and these ragged-petaled flowers are nothing short of miraculous.
Geese fly overhead in the dark evening, so near I hear their wings beating. Frost hovers, gathering strength.
Yeah, my daughter says, that’s what geese do. They’re out of here!
The garden’s gone wild at the end of the season, its queen the mightiest and heaviest sunflower head I’ve ever grown. Its stalk might rival a sturdy sapling.
The woodchuck’s gnawing my cabbage heads near the garden gate. In another year, I might have set the trap, but this year…. Gnaw on, chuck. Winter’s coming. The cabbages are profuse.
A touch of cold in the Autumn night –
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.
I’m reading outside with my bare feet on the firepit stones when I feel something like my cat’s tongue on my toe. I’m reading intently, in the few remaining minutes before my daughter returns from soccer practice and my attention will abruptly shift into chat about school and peers and the righteous outrage I suddenly see emerging in this teen. How had I forgotten that one of the most interesting aspects of adolescence is an emerging moral sense of the world? What’s wrong? Who’s right? (And, please, as a parent, could I just remain low and out of the light?)
I’m reading, of all things, Wendell Berry, when I realize a grasshopper is nibbling my toe. It’s the very end of August, the sunflowers are opening, the basil is prolific, the beans have spread into a sculpture in the middle of my garden. I close the book and let the grasshopper gnaw.
We are dealing, then, with an absurdity that is not a quirk or an accident, but is fundamental to our character as people. The split between what we think and what we do is profound.
— Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture