Tag Archives: Gardening

Courage at Twilight: Milkweed and Monarchs

Monarch butterfly on my daughter Hannah’s hand

Years ago Mom planted milkweed seeds in a patch of open dirt under the Austrian Pine.  The plants are difficult to establish, but once established proliferate and dominate their territory.  She likes the shapes of their leaves, the heads of pretty perfumed pink starlet flowers, and the conical green seed pods that brown and break open and spread thousands of fluff-laden seeds on the breeze.  But the real reason she grows the milkweed is to attract Monarch butterflies.  As a child in Brazil and New Jersey, I gathered Monarch caterpillars and fed them to maturity, watched them pupate and finally break free as butterflies with wet wrinkled wings that vibrate and spread into black-webbed fiery flapping sails.  As an adult in Utah, I have helped my children do the same.  The Monarch chrysalis is like no other, a soft powdery green with stripes of gold: a living jewel.  Although Mom she has not yet seen a Monarch floating above her milkweed plants, still she hopes one will flutter by someday and stop to lay its eggs.  I believe it will.  For Mom, her milkweed patch has become a symbol of hope: hope for beauty and hope for successful growing up and taking off, a hope and trust in life.

 

Courage at Twilight: Shaping Bushes

Dad loves his yard care tools, especially the power tools.  The only power tool we owned growing up in East Brunswick, New Jersey was the push mower, with no power drive, for the half-acre corner lot at 2 Schindler Court (named by the developer-friend of Mr. Schindler of Schindler’s List).  Now Dad enjoys a set of DeWalt battery-powered tools, including one of his favorites, the hedge trimmer.  He often trims the bushes nicely round.  But the trimmer cannot grab and cut the shoots along the ground, and bending and kneeling is out of the question.  I, on the other hand, can (barely) bend and (barely) kneel, and I like the small hand pruner.  So while Dad shapes the bushes, I kneel on a cushioned pad and reach under the bushes to cut their runners and shoots, leaving a collection of uniquely and pleasantly shaped orbs.  The hard-to-get-to places are the ones longest neglected, but turning attention and effort to them yields pleasing results.  There’s a metaphor there somewhere.

Smashed

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I have lived alone for 1 year now: 52 weeks: 365 days.  The highlight of my life is to see my children.  They grew a gorgeous garden this year, and shared with me their harvest: sweet corn; swiss chard; cucumbers.  And a pumpkin.  Their front porch is adorned with two dozen perfect orange pumpkins.  Hyrum and Hannah offered me one, perfectly round, with a spiraling stem. The pumpkin reminded me of them each night when I came home from work.  It looked so cute sitting by the front door, until one evening I found it smashed on the rocks.

SMASHED

To Whoever
smashed my pumpkin:
I wondered
how long
my pumpkin would survive
you.

Not long.

My little daughter
raised this pumpkin
in her garden.

I love her.
I do not get to see her much.
I miss her.

So, I set by my door
her pumpkin, my pumpkin.
It reminded me of her.

I dared to hope
you would let it be.
But you smashed
my little girl’s
pumpkin.

(PS.  She gave me another yesterday.  One can hope.)

A Spot of Soil

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With Spring come thoughts of gardening.  I would not say that gardening is blissful.  In fact, gardening is work.  But working with the soil and tending to plants bring rewards both within yourself and for your dinner table.  The earth is my garden.  I am both the seedling and gardener.  The soil is mine to work, to nourish, as I determine.  I will grow, with twists and knots and bends, to be sure, deformed here and there, but whole.  I will grow and become myself, as I was in the beginning, as I will be when I move on.  I am me, after all, and you are always you.  You will know me, by the fruit I bear.  And thus will I, too, know you.  (This poem relates to the post entitled Chapter 29: Gardens of the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog.)

A SPOT OF SOIL

A spot of soil:
a patch of earth:
a garden.
It draws me, pulls me in,
to bend and kneel,
to press my fingers into
the cool, moist, humic ground,
to lift out handfuls—
like a child
in a sandbox or the seashore surf—
and let it sift through slowly opening fingers.
I plunge again, retrieve, release.
Again.
And again.
I am overcome with wonderment.
From this seemingly inert substance
springs all leafy life,
that sustains animal life—
my life.
With sharp steel implements
I dig and hoe and till and rake,
work the soil,
giving it what strength I can with
compost and manure and care.
With innocent expectation
I place the seeds,
so small,
like lifeless gravelly grains,
in furrows and mounds,
wishing for immediate fulfillment,
but understanding that
hope requires patience, that
faith rests in an abiding stillness, that
I cannot force the course of life,
but only prepare the way,
bring together a few essential ingredients,
and allow life to live,
as it determines,
while I attempt to nourish.

 

Look Out the Window

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In a safe environment, a child can see the world with wonder.  He or she encounters the smiles and waves of a parent, loose garden soil between the toes, butterflies on flower blossoms, and being tucked into bed with a story or a lullaby.  I wrote the song “Look Out the Window” after one of my children called to me from an upstairs window while I worked in the garden.  She was happy to see me–“Hi Daddy!”–and raced down the stairs to join me in the garden.  Every child deserves to be safe and to be loved, and to see the world with wonder.  Here is the link to the sheet music to Look Out the Window.

Chapter 29: Gardens

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–Knock, knock.–
–Who’s there?–
–I got up.–
–I got up who?–
(Hyrum-4 with Dad)

Despite the bright blue sky and the sun’s brilliance dazzling from millions of ice crystals in the fresh skiff of snow, I felt crushed by life’s burdens as I trudged alone along Rabbit Lane.  The burdens of being a husband and provider and father to seven children.  The burdens of being legal counsel to a busy, growing city.  The burdens of maintaining a home, of participating in my church, and of being scoutmaster to a local boy scout troop.  The burdens of being human.  While the sky above me opened wide to space, these responsibilities bore down heavily upon my heart.  They seemed to darken my very sky. Continue reading

Summer Corn

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On many a summer evening, as the dry air began to cool, the children found me in the garden sitting on a picnic chair hidden between rows of corn stalks, munching on cobs of raw sweet corn.  That is as close to bliss as I’ve ever come.  One day I yielded to the impulse to lie on my back in the dirt between the corn rows, close my eyes, and just listen.  It took me years to put the experience into words, but I finally managed (hopefully) with “Summer Corn.”  As the poem seeks to share with an anonymous companion, so now I share with you.

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Summer Corn

Lie with me between the rows of summer corn.
Don’t speak, yet.
Listen:
to the raspy hum of bees gathering pollen from pregnant, golden tassels,
to the hoarse soft rubbing of coarse green leaves in the imperceptible breeze,
to the plinking rain of locust droppings upon the soft soil.
Listen:
to the neighbor’s angus wieners bemoaning their separation,
to the pretty chukars heckling from the chicken coop,
to the blood pulsing in your ears, coursing through your brain.
Don’t speak, now.
Reach to touch my hand.
Listen to the world
from within the rows of summer corn.