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The heated air of these Summer days carry memories of dessert tunes whispered by sojourners on the way to emptiness as if the hot winds would ever let any sentient hermit be still, as if even the most beautiful things dared the end with dazzling grace, as if the irony of death’s sweet fragrance was not really terrifying and it’s end foul and horrific to those who remain behind, denying the scythe of impermanence and losing the eternity of the moment. Time to stand still at the speed of light, I often caution others, who might overhear my whispers to the breezes rippling from the stand-up fan hitting my neck and crystallizing the ever present discomfort of living at this age. What once was youthful want and angst is now inflammation, hobbling gait, and reading tracts on turmeric and willow-wood.
I lie in the canopy swing reading Mary Oliver as she digs in the dirt for nouns and adjectives to capture her immortal pond or beats the bushes for treasures in the sea dunes where she always finds jewels, always. I think of Walden Pond and the same manic beauty, never quite captured, but made magnificent in the trying. Would you have heard me May Sarton as you arranged wild flowers in a Mason jar sitting in the raked light of a late afternoon in the kitchen window of your isolated Maine cottage? I embrace you sisters and brother. Even your shadows bring me light on this summer day of reverie.
Andie might comment on my geriatric ruminations if she weren’t so very busy digging a dirt nest beneath the swing that contains my drifting thoughts and the reformation of every garden manifested from the magic of such artists of the word. At night, especially in the moonlight, all the white flowers recall ‘Sissinghurst’ and the touch of Vita Sackville-West’s dreamy romanticism rising above the terrible history of a castle she liberated from the terror of it’s past. The sound of crickets in harmony sooth the warm air night.
Perhaps it is true that pain produces the most exquisite nuances of understanding and creates the complex interconnections of a disparate whole. It is a delicate balance, which with one wrong step of the mind encourages pain to bring a hellish solipsism and a path to vivid darkness. It is quite certain, that even under the right conditions, given all the room imaginable we might descend into madness as a reflex rather than a choice as the poets would have it.
Today however, Andie and I, mid-morning, embrace the dappled light, the scent of roses and rosemary. Madness seems an indulgence in the presence of cool morning light. The nectar garden is a buzz with bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds attracted to the honey scented trees of blooming Buddleia. Swirled plumes of purple, lavender, white and yellow attract the high fliers, while roses and honeysuckle incite the industrious on a more prosaic level of practicality and availability. Andie, seemingly indifferent to flora hunts wild plums and strawberries, which are now ripe and sweet.
The pond, without any artificial fussing is crystal clear, filled with white water lilies, their green broad pads sturdy enough for little birds to perch and sip water. Beneath them, among their magenta stems, swims old Koithuselah, who has survived many years in his watery hermitage. It is a private place, the pond, surrounded by greenery, overhanging plants, and protected by modest boulders of a rustic sort, reminiscent of Japanese gardens and complementing the stone lantern overlooking the tiny path leading to the edge of its mysteries. Moss, herb ground-covers and old round mill-stones complete the advance for the curious.
At present the garden is thrillingly overgrown. In a complexity of greens all is a jumble of textures and shapes. It deeply appeals to my inner anarchist to see such artificial planning go wild and free. It’s still summer and I must resist the haunting call of autumn, which always brings me the pleasures of melancholy and deep-heart memories.
Nothing so clearly reminds me of this season than the few annuals planted neatly along the paths to bring some cartoonish definition and orderly discipline to the garden, as if its flight from manageable order were stabilized by snapdragons in a row. In the current melee these bi-annual indulgences seem like prim school girls parading through a Victorian brothel.
This garden is not kind to annuals for some reason. So I plant them in barrels and am astonished to see a rainbow palette of zinnias three feet tall! Peeping through the green jungle they brighten the first morning view out the bedroom window as I play with Andie before our morning walk time.
Oh, I realize this magical high-walled garden is a conceit of sorts, fashioned from every one of its ancestors for the same reason, sanctuary. Time has come again when great evil, corruption and the shadow of death stalks a vast and ambitious culture, thought quite naturally with the usual aberrant religious and vigorous patriotism to be exceptional above all its historic antecedents, whose dazzling achievements inevitably fell to ennui, greed, injustice and barbarism.
Thus, the need for beautiful gardens, where chaos is beauty, rather than the touch of dissolution; where madness is held at bay by a simple wooden gate; where gathering thoughts of brothers and sisters of the heart is a certain rebellion and not a desperate resistance to a death cult of political ideologues.
Andie and I are, however, big on civilization, freedom, kindness, justice, compassion; all to create a true civic garden.