since the day i hacked back the weeds, lassoed the wild-haired junk bush, it’s been my one guaranteed wedge of the sacred.
not very wide, my prayer alley, wedged between me and the brick house next door. just wide enough for a wheelbarrow. and once the blooming begins, barely wide enough for me and my garden-clog feets.
oh, but i tiptoe back and forth anyway, feel the rambling pink roses scratch sharp against my shins, climb over the ferns or the bleeding hearts that reach out to brush me soft as a kitten’s whisker.
for three years now i have coaxed and coddled a holy trinity of climbing hydrangea, backdrop to all of the sacred, the last line of defense between me and a not-so-nice fence.
i’ve watched with chest-thumping pride as those babies finally caught on, got with the program after sputtering starts.
at long last, as i cooed and kindly cajoled, all three of ’em stuck out their sticky-toed feets and worked their way up the humdrum planks i’ve been trying to hide.
just this past summer those vines reached the top, a triumphant hallelujah, indeed — if you’d been listening, that is, deep in the night when the plants in a garden do all their whoppin’ and hollerin’.
after all this twirling my thumbs, and all of these summers and autumns and winters of waiting, my old side garden, my contemplative place, the walk where i sit on a bench, or the stoop where i soak up the sun like a frog on a lily pad, it had finally grown lush, grown through-and-through green, become like a tunnel of leaves and fronds and bird houses and bluestone steps.
you could get lost there. and, so help me, i did.
but yesterday morn, when the winds blew mighty and fierce, my little one was scooping up pancakes, sitting on a stool that looks out through the door and onto the one swatch of garden he and i have a habit of watching.
that’s when he yelped, “oh, no, george’s fence is blowing away.”
and that’s when i looked. and by golly, that boy who keeps watch on me, on our world, now that he’s the only kid home, he was 100-percent utterly right. george’s fence was blowing away. or at least over. headed straight for my bushes and trees.
it was barely seven o’clock, but i leapt from the house in my bare naked feet, and hurdled straight over a pumpkin. i had a fence on the loose to corral, and a whole line of sacred to save.
i got there in the nick of time, you’ll be happy to hear.
but, already, it was too late.
the fence was awobble, aquake.
i called up george, our dear next-door friend, and told him what was the matter.
oh, that fence, he sighed. told me a chunk of it had caved in already, on the far side of the yard, where i couldn’t see. told me he’d get his fence guy right over.
well, that fence guy is here all right, told me he’d have to get at the fence by tromping straight through my garden.
egad, i said. though i believe, if i’m honest, the word in my head wasn’t nearly so scrubbed-up-and-polished.
um, mr. fence man, i said, you cannot tromp through my garden. my garden, you see, is very much alive, and it very much matters. the soles of your shoes, smooshed on those stems, on those leaves, they will crush every last bit. and along with the garden, they’ll steamroll my soul.
so, the fence man and i, we reached a detente. or at least his version of an agreeable deal: if i pulled down every last spoke of my climbing hydrangeas, if i tenderly talked to the hundreds and dozens of sticky-toed clingers, if i promised each one that it wouldn’t hurt, that i was actually trying to save them, well then, we might be in business.
the falling-down fence would be fixed, and my bushes and trees — and ferns and mop-head hydrangeas and forget-me-nots and bleeding hearts and sage and nodding onion and on and on and on — it all would stand a fair chance of making it through to next spring. or at least through the weekend, i gulped, fighting back worries.
the climbers, the ones that clung to that fence for dear life, the ones that had soared to the top of their particular mountain, they now dangle, adrift.
the roots, far as i know, are solidly planted. no foots have crushed them so far, and so help me God, they shall not.
but the act of tearing them off, of taking them down from their proud climbing wall, why, it felt worse than yanking a band-aid off the hair of your knee. poor hydrangea.
poor garden. poor gardener.
life is like that sometimes: just when you reach the top of the hill, when the climb is behind you and the view is quite something up there, the whole thing comes tumbling apart. you lose your bearings. you do what you’ve long dreaded.
and you start all over again.
i’ll be out there tonight, with rolls of scotch tape. and plenty of triple-strength holy water. a good sprinkle, a dousing, never hurt, now did it? certainly not in a garden whose first name is sacred.
and so goes the latest installment in the sad tale of fencus interruptus.
was a week for weird weather, all right. my boy in far off amherst, suffered a storm they’re calling “snowtober.” 12 inches of snow. trees down left, right, and sideways.
as i type, my sweet mate is on a train chugging toward that very college. it’s family weekend but i am at home. that’s a bummer, indeed. but i’ll get my turn in the spring.
in case you’re in the mood for a little typing, here’s a question: what mountains have you, like my hydrangea, finally climbed, only to discover, you’ve got to start all over again……