i’d been wandering by for days. ignoring. thinking it might go away. stop misbehaving.
it had gotten to sending out shoots, trying to trip me. then, shoots on top of shoots, tangled. trying to trap me.
it was a garden gone mad. and it demanded attention. the black-eyed susans were black, all right. desiccated is more likely the word. the goldenrod, one of the weeds i pretend, for now, is a perennial, just lay there. draped, theatric. the fair maiden who’d been slain and fallen on top of the stage. probably let out a wail, had i been listening. one certain to rustle attention. only i must have been off cleaning my clippers.
and then the roses. thorny old things, willing to hurt if you let them. they’d let go of petals, one by one lazy one. rather stark, or maybe poetic, the way they stood there disrobing, dropping their skirts to the ground.
and then, in a fit of the autumn pretending it’s summer, i succumbed. got down on my hands and my knees. started to tend to the garden of my discontent. did the thing the black susans were begging for–i cut off their heads.
goldenrod too. i cut and i cut and i cut. i tried to bring form to the disheveled masses of summer gone limp, gone dark, gone gaga.
and the whole time i employed my trusty ol’ clippers, my felco no. 2s with the oversized mandible and the appetite that cannot be sated, i whispered the words of my promise.
next year, my sweet, i said to the buck-naked rose. next year i will give you attention. lavish you. feed you bonbons, if that’s what you want.
the dregs of the delphinium, failed experiment no. 4, i took by the neck and i tugged. serves me right, i couldn’t help thinking. i barely tend her at all.
these past few years, what with all the hammering and sawing and nailheads flying like hail, i’ve been rather a recalcitrant gardener, which might be a too-kind diagnosis. my garden might call me a wretch.
this past year, for instance, i did next to nothing in my perennial patch. oh, i watched the poppies come up, go limp. fall this way and that, as if some raccoon was using them as a mattress in the deep and the dark of the night.
i watched the meadow rue go mad. boisterous ol’ stalker. just pushes and shoves, makes its own path. cares not a whit if it does in the chives, bamboozles the basil.
if not for the old faithfuls, the black-eyed susan, the yarrow, the rose, i’d have had nothing but failure heaped upon failure.
see, you can’t wholly ignore the patch of the world you claim as your garden. there are citizens–a.k.a. weeds–seething to trespass. give ‘em an inch, they’ll take the whole plot. and creep into the brick walk besides.
it’s just that, well, this ol’ patch of suburbia is not quite the quaint little garden i had tucked back at my old house, my city house. there, i did petit point (teeny tiny stitches in a teeny tiny canvas). and i did it quite well. i had small little trees. curlicue bushes that to this very day i so miss. i had thyme tucked between stepping stones. i had a so-called water element. (that’s garden talk for a makeshift fountain that made the requisite dribbly sound.)
it was my first garden, and thus my first love.
i carried a few bits of it up here to this sprawling (by comparison) plot. but it’s just not the same. and i’ve not sunk my soul–not yet anyway–into this fine patch of earth.
oh, i’ve dabbled. gone through the motions. but it hardly speaks to me other than to yell at me, scold me, remind me i am doing a terrible job keeping up with mrs. nelson, just down the block.
now she is a gardener. she is out there in moonlight. her knees are muddy more often than not. yet her garden is not some manicured thing. just a well-loved one that seems to swoon, puff up its chest, whenever she’s out there. which, i swear, is practically always.
and so, once again, the garden i disregard stands ready to teach me, to offer forth truths if only i would get down on my hands and my knees, pay it some mind.
it’s been ignored long enough. like the beleaguered baseball fans now packing up dreams, i look to next year.
next year no hammers will pound. next year no bent nails will rain on my yard.
next year, i make sense of my garden. and plant it with plenty of heart.
it’s not a bad thing to admit your short-fallings. not a hard thing when they try to trip you each time you haul out the garbage.
there are pockets of our lives that we just cannot get to. so we hobble along. we cut back. we do what we can. we make promises, but only the ones we intend to keep. we sink our hopes into second chances. and third. and fourth. and fifth.
the garden is willing. it patiently waits. it forgives in abundant bouquets. all it asks is a chance to break through the earth, to lift up its heads, to drink, to bask in the light.
and come january, the catalogs once again will spill from the mail slot. and i can start plotting my promise.
do you have perennial hopes for some chunk of your life you do want to get to? do you get tangled in the reminders that you’ve not yet done so? are you able to find the beauty in the promise not yet fulfilled?
and speaking of mrs. nelson, that heavenly gardener, it’s her birthday today. for all the beauty she plants, in her patches of earth, or her kinder garten, or just my own heart, blessings my friend. and thank you.