Garlic Planting/Rough Draft

I planted the garlic this afternoon, late in the season, a few weeks beyond my more orderly neighbors. Sleet fell this morning when I walked around the property with the logger who delivered firewood. He and his nephew had bought a sugarbush, and we shop talked sugaring. By afternoon, the sleet had wandered off, but the remaining light is meager as November presses in. Working alone, I remembered how long it took to plant garlic with my one-year-old. She dropped each clove into the hole I dug, even then diligent, careful to set ragged roots down.

Despite the bleakness settling in, garlic is hands-down my favorite crop to plant. My cloves this year, from last year’s harvest, are some of the fattest and savoriest I’ve ever grown. Deep in this rich black earth they’ll hibernate all winter, covered with compost and a matted quilt of dry maple leaves. Next spring, the question goes around, How’s your garlic looking?

The garlic is like the second novel I’m writing, where the seeds of the rough draft have been silently sleeping, and now this book is rising and stretching. Grow, I think, in what way will you grow? I’ve carefully sown and fertilized these seeds, and now is the time to dig in with my hands and scrape off that matted mulch and let the green begin to rise and see where it might grow.

 Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones out of our minds, come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil.

–– Natalie Goldberg

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Apple Tree & Elmore Mountain, West Woodbury, Vermont