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


Apple Tree & Elmore Mountain, West Woodbury, Vermont


After a morning’s work, I stepped out on the balcony and saw wild turkeys slowly picking their way through the frost-bent buckwheat around my garden. These birds are amazingly large, with their red and gum-blue heads vibrant colors against the autumn’s gold. By the time I was in the garden, the turkeys had gone on their way, back into the woods.

With my hands, I tore out the pepper plants, the marigolds and nasturtiums, the cosmos, the end of the squash, these beauties finished for this year. The sunflowers and zinnias I left standing, heads bent down, yet rich with seed, for the birds.

Life is not orderly. No matter how we try to make life so, right in the middle of it we die, lose a leg, fall in love, drop a jar of applesauce. In summer, we work hard to make a tidy garden, bordered by pansies with rows or clumps of columbine, petunias, bleeding hearts. Then we find ourselves longing for the forest, where everything has the appearance of disorder; yet we feel peaceful there.

–– Natalie Goldberg


Garden/West Woodbury, Vermont