Just a year shy of two decades here in our cottage, and summer finally come, I’m reflecting on the garden. When we first arrived, all that grew within were weeds and a trampled lawn, bare in spots. One border boasted six scraggly rosebushes, past their time of bloom. There was a wooden frame with a lone swing, and monkey bars set above a sandbox that had seen better days, which looked in fact as if the neighborhood cats had been using it for their own purposes. A battered garden shed stood in a back corner, and beyond that loomed the massive bulk of the neighboring school’s gymnasium.
But the rosebushes got to me. A vision formed.
I have a mature garden now. The original rosebushes have thrived. They emerge wine dark in June, luxuriant, triumphant in the sun. They have been joined by other varieties, yellow, crimson, and a plush pink American Beauty, my pride and joy. The borders are cultivated and each holds some special something for every moment of the growing season.
Still, there is always room for more, always more work to be done. I think of it as a work-in-progress, like a canvas to be filled, and when I work in my garden, the brain gremlins quit me and do not return until I finish for the day, nails broken, hair tangled, stones in my dirt-clotted sneakers, muscles aching in a thousand lovely knots. I am happy here, with my thoughts turned off.
The gym walls are covered with ivy, though the storm called Sandy had last fall done her best to shred the vines from the building. But I know they will grow again, climb to obscure the bricks in a curtain of green.
With the sandbox long gone, I turned the monkey bars into an arbor years ago; these days it is festooned with a riot of wisteria. I don’t care that it’s too shady for the trailing plant to ever flower. It burgeons with life, and that’s more than enough for me. Besides, I’ve got a lilac bush in front, just blooming now, filling the air with fragrance.
Our old shed, its roof collapsed in the blizzard of 2010, had come to resemble the portal to hell, leaning as it was against the gym, the blank-windowed door like an open maw. Finally we had it dragged away to wherever it is that old sheds go to die. Someone had once laid a floor of brick there, who knows when, and I have decided it will make a perfect patio. A lounge chair, a little table. Some shade-loving plants. In a week’s time, give or take, my friends Juan Carlos and Leo will come to cover the ugly chain link fence with latticework, and fix the broken step on the deck while they’re at it. How I love to sit on that deck in the morning sun, with my coffee, gazing at my garden.
Saturday I came home from the nursery with a car full of annuals. I worked four hours without pause, in my garden. It was deeply quiet, wrapped in its profusion of new green, and I could hear the call of a mourning dove. I didn’t even notice when the rain began. Patting down the wet earth around the new plantings, I am not so much thinking of the notion of transformation, I am living it. I stalk, in the gentle rain, covered in mud, my wet hair plastered to my head, inspecting. The rosebuds, just softening for imminent birth, freckled with translucent raindrops, bulge with promise. All around me in my garden is evidence of a coming into being that heartens me. The rain whispers in the trees, and the croon of the mourning dove receives some mystic answer from another. I hum tunelessly to myself. Happy.