My mother spent many hours in The Garden. It was a special place behind the barn on our property in Ames, N.Y. The Garden afforded Mom a place to express herself through nature.
“The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.” (George Bernard Shaw)
I wrote this piece for my mother in 1995 as a Christmas gift. I included the picture below of Mom working in The Garden. It is a special memory for me.
The modest rectangular plot of rich, dark soil lay unpretentiously behind the friendly shadow of the wooden barn. Guarded by a sun bleached stockade fence and assorted trees, The Garden thrives and performs its miracles. Brightly colored wild flowers invite visitors to the northern side. The aromas from the fragrant fresh herbs waft from the east. It is a quiet and unassuming place to the eye. But, for the soul, it is a source of magic and inspiration. Under the watchful eye of its landlord, the cycles of nature perform their sonatas in concert with one another. Year after year without missing a beat.
Geometric patterns are tilled into the dark, cool soil by hand. Straight rows and small squares are sculpted out by well worn tools. Hoes, rakes, and shovels arouse the earth and move it about, awakening The Garden from its long winter slumber. Minuscule seeds of extraordinary varieties burrow below the surface in anticipation of sunshine and warmth. They wait patiently for the nutrients of the earth to crack open their hard shells and release the sprouts of new life. Ever so inconspicuous, delicate emerald green filaments vigorously push clear past the weight of the land and reach anxiously towards the sun. Day by day, their journey continues, until at last, a full plant has evolved.
The sun casts its light early upon The Garden. For half of the day it will reflect its beams and warmth upon the plants, vines, and blossoms. Assorted shades of green, speckled with splashes of color like the hues from an artist’s palette, fill the plot of land. Butterflies and honey bees dance about the plants as if they are switching from one partner to another in a mad frenzy of dance. Petite buds of fruit swell out from under their protective leaves and mature as the long summer hours wear on. Gentle rains wash away the dust and pollen and everything looks new again.
The days grow longer and so do the stems and twisted vines in The Garden. A layer of dew refreshes their parched surfaces as the night falls, and it is time for rest. Weary from their open hours, the blossoms slowly close and preserve themselves for another day of beauty. The butterflies and bees return home and the rhythmic chirp of the cricket stands guard.
Autumn (The Harvest)
With a great sense of satisfaction, her tired hands pluck the red tomatoes from the vines. Perfect, deep purple egg plants reflect the low autumn light as they hang and wait for their turn. New potatoes are revealed from deep below like tiny treasures in a miner’s pan. Herbs are harvested in large bunches to be dried for cooking and decoration. Petite prickly cucumbers are delicately placed into a colander awaiting the right moment to be blanched and pickled.
The Garden is selfless. It gives away its treasures without asking anything in return. It has borrowed nature’s warmth and moisture to produce its own gifts. And from these treasures, the landlady makes her offerings of pickles, relishes, chutneys, and preserves. The rows of thick blue glass Ball jars reflect the late afternoon light as they wait on the kitchen counter to be filled.
Now, The Garden is no longer outside. It is inside. It is waiting to be shared with family and friends during the cold winter days when its existence is just a memory. The tender juicy vegetables awaken our taste buds and remind us of the warm summer days.
The compost of brown leaves becomes the blanket. Carefully spread as a protective layer it seals the earth. By late November, the white snowy bedspread creates a fluffy layer on top. Sh-h-h, The Garden is sleeping. Curious deer and rabbits poke about the few hollow stalks standing mischievously in the vacant rows. Frosty white drifts pile high along the fence and create new lines and shadows. Clear, frozen icicles hang down from the nearby branches directing attention to the special place below. The landlord follows the sun to the south. The house sits idle. The barn is all alone. But, The Garden is content and undisturbed. Ready for the next season. Ready to give once again.
“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” (Alfred Austin)