cottage industry

by bam


out the window, the one that’s cracked open just wide enough to let in this summer’s night, i hear the hush-hush lullaby of the gentle rain. every now and then, a rumble from far enough away.

the heavens are blessing a long day’s work.

my brand new garden, a cottage garden in the making, is drinking in what the clouds have to offer. and it is succulent, the libation that comes from on high, not from hoses.

my chockablock garden plan continues.

today we tackled the weedy jungle along the side of the house. a passageway that since we moved here was a place where, to get from one end to the other, i held my breath and ran. never knew what might reach out and grab you by the leg.

and the holes beside the house, the ones that seemed to tunnel down and underneath the floor of this little room where i type, i always figured they were big enough for baby skunks. or snakes.

then when i heard the rustling down beneath the floorboards, i’d freeze, tell my fingers not to move, don’t touch the keyboard. we’re being invaded, i would think. wait for the rustling to stop. then return to typing here in the room where the critters crawl below.


ah, but in my mind’s eye, for a gardener is nothing if not a fool who sees what is not there, i’ve always seen a swath of meadow. a plot for herbs. and rambling roses.

now mind you this is a space about the size of a narrow grocery aisle. and not much light if you add up all the hours that aren’t in shadow.

like i said: a gardener is a fool who sees what isn’t there. might never be.

but those of us who sink our hearts and souls into the earth, why we can make a whole vast woodland from just a clump or two of lilies of the valley. and one climbing rose might as well be munstead, the great walled garden of gertrude jekyll, england’s great gift to all of us who don big-brimmed hats, muddy gloves and soggy shoes to match.

i often think the trick to being a gardener is that we have lilliputian tendencies, can shrink down to sprite size, imagine ourselves no bigger than the lady bug i found today, crawling on an oakleaf hydrangea.

we get lost, some of us do, beneath the domed canopy of that one hydrangea leaf. we imagine setting up a hammock stretched from stem to stem of a shrub rose, a hammock that might be the size of a handkerchief tied with knots at the four corners, just big enough for our imaginary little self, the one that would get lost, if we let her, in the bleeding heart, the painted fern, the lenten rose.

i launched this day with big hopes. could barely sleep, waiting for first light to come, so i could finally toss back the covers, slip on my holey jeans, drive down to the city where my friend marguerite has her yard. that’s what she calls the quarter lot, behind the drive-thru mcdonald’s, where she stores her summer’s stash.

we meander through the packed aisles, climb over hoses, shove big pots out of the way, pick this and that, the makings of my cottage garden.

then we load up her flat bed truck, and drive north, back beyond the city limits, past the line she once said she could not cross, not without shots and passport. but now she’s made the trek twice, although she’s sworn me to secrecy on that. so do not spread the word.

we hacked and dug and cut. cleared the land, we did. heaved the old bluestone slabs, hauled out the roto-tiller, a fine machine if ever there was a lumbar-sparing invention.

wasn’t long after all the bumps and holes were straightened out, filled in, leveled, that marguerite starting plucking trees and shrubs the way a kid pulls colors from the crayola 64-pack.

wasn’t long till i had tears. and a big old lump in my throat. i saw roses right along my picket fence. and a flowering crab that will explode in deep dark pink, and fade to white, come april.

she even carved out a cove that some day will hold a bench. will be the place where i sit and dream. or whisper holy words.

there’s a lot of some day in my garden. a lot of hyphenation now. wide spaces in between.

you need faith the day you plant a garden. and the days after and after too.

you need to tamp down the urge to go out and raid a meadow. bring home the pretty things you dream of. the swaths of poetry to come.

i’ve made a pact with this plot of earth that’s mine. i will tend it, and poke at it for years and years to come. i will tiptoe through at nightfall and back again at dawn. i’ll sit on the stoop outside my kitchen door, sip minty waters, pay my garden mind.

it‘s only just begun today.

but i have seeded it with hope.

and it is listening.

i hear it now, gulping down the rain.

it’s late. i’m bone tired. time for this gardener to toddle off to bed. but a pause at the typing keys is a lovely way to end a day that started in the someday cottage garden.
what hopes have you seeded lately?