One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."


Last night, we were having some steady breezes, easily little gusts without the power to do more than stir the treetops, the leaves’ whispers rising and falling in the dark. It’s the sort of sound that tells you that there’s probably some rain coming…though it continued to not arrive for the longest time. Still the sound of the trees is a soothing one, and the breezes stirred the air and seemed to push away some of the day’s humidity, though it was still a warm enough night to sleep atop covers.

Very early this morning, I woke up long enough to realize that soft wooshing sound had changed a little…the difference between leaves rustling and rain washing the leaves of everything in the garden, soaking into the earth, bringing strength to seedlings recently transplanted. It too, was a good sound, and with the cat snuggled against my legs, I settled back against my pillows to sleep a little longer.

When I went out into the garden a little later with my coffee, there was plenty to celebrate. This first snapdragon, which I’d thought to be pink in bud stage, has turned out to be something a little more fiery and exciting.

There are more shasta daisies in bloom each day, and now that the hot magenta lychnis has begun, that’s true of them as well. Birds sing, bunnies hop, chipmunks scamper and all seems right with the world.

Of course, that’s rarely true, that bit about the world. It’s too hot, or there’s too much traffic. Loved ones don’t necessarily value us the way we hope and probably the same is true of us about them. The almighty dollar turns out to be not nearly as mighty as we’d like. There’s too much time to be spent in offices, and well, a thousand other things that just aren’t worth going on about.

The garden is my refuge and also my strength, usually giving me smiles enough to get through the day and it teaches me plenty, too.

In the garden, you learn Life isn’t always fair. Adorable bunnies have a taste for valuable plants. A plant that is perfect and full of promise one day can be mown down the next by some anonymous insect or accidentally trod upon by some eager pup. Wind can snap lilies or hail pelt your tomato plants. All you can do is clean up the mess, figure out what you can learn from the experience and move on, hoping that next time things might go a little differently.

This weekend I found this pretty eggshell in the vegetable end of the garden, near the bushes where catbirds and house sparrows make their homes. It is, I’m pretty sure, the shell of a catbird egg, and it seems to be empty, so my hope is it was just tossed out during post-fledgling nest cleaning.

While researching to confirm the egg type, though, I did learn that sometimes cowbirds will lay their eggs in catbird nests, and if they manage to replace the catbird’s first egg at the same time, the catbird will occasionally be fooled into thinking that its own subsequent eggs are imposters and toss them out of the nest, incubating instead the egg of the cowbird.

You see: Life’s just not always fair.

This morning saw the usual examination of things, admiring a strong seedling here, whispering encouragement to others over there, taking another noseful of that heliotrope, yanking out a few tufts of grass, and realizing that once again, it was time to trim the edges of the bed to make it look tidier.

When I was through, I decided to give Granny a call. She’s been on my mind always lately, as you can imagine, and I hadn’t been able to talk to her in a while. I thought perhaps I could encourage her in her recovery efforts with talk of a thriving garden. And at first, we did just that.

But then something changed, and all of a sudden she was very confused, repeating herself almost endlessly, her words getting mixed up in her sentences, seeming to think for a minute or two that she was talking to someone else. This evening finds her back in the hospital once again, as she may have suffered a worse injury than we’d originally believed. Everything else seems to leave my mind and she is, quite naturally, all I can think about.

One of the many things that she and I talked about the morning before her accident were a set of solar lights shaped like tulips, which she’d recently seen in a catalog. She wanted to know what I thought of them, and of course, I thought they sounded pretty neat. She asked if I’d like them and I said sure, but suggested that perhaps there were other things she ought to be spending her money on (like, in hindsight, rides to the grocery store)instead.

But it turns out that she had her own ideas, as always, and she had either already ordered them for me, or did so when we finished talking that day.

For as I sat by the window this morning, thinking about our confused and unsettling phone call, worrying about her and wishing I could be at her side, even knowing there’s nothing much I could do for her, a package arrived with the morning mail, containing a set of those silly solar lights.

I wasted little time in assembling them and then finding them homes within the garden bed, so they could soak up all the sun the day had to offer. They were glowing brightly out there in the garden when I got home from work and I’ve lit my wee lanterns to add to their light.

Tonight I don’t hope to attract the fairy folk, nor am I much in the mood for leaping and dancing. But I hope they add some positive energy to the world, all of which I send in my Granny’s direction.

Tonight, the garden is my comfort and I hope, hers, too.

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