I brought in Homestead verbena, already a sprawl of outrageous purple flowers. Miss Huff lantana, a smallish perennial with a deceptively Old South name that will put out hot orange and golden flowers, sometimes with a hint of blush, eventually filling up the landscape even in the hottest of summers, as deceptively demur Southern belles will sometimes do. For spice, fluorescent pink ice plant, which folds its gaudy flowers every night and flings them open again every morning.
And out of sheer recklessness, a nice-sized lilac bush whose fragrance will leap to compete with a nearby magnolia, which has more than a dozen fat buds lush with promise.
After they were all in the ground, I set right the leggy rose bushes that had bent double in a recent storm. To show their appreciation, a dozen buds opened this morning, watercolor red.
The verbena was barely in the ground when the bumblebees gathered ’round. By late morning, the butterflies had come – one very chic in black with iridescent blue trim, a shy one in white, others in orange and yellow to show solidarity with Miss Huff. Coming in with authority, a plump chickadee in formal-wear perched high in the five-gallon maple that has already leafed out in rich green.
Sometimes when I garden, I understand why God went on for days. Who would want to stop? Let there be this…let there be that…and watch the magic that follows.
Four days at the cabin. Countless wheelbarrows full of gravel spread. In the ground: one maple tree, three azaleas, two rose bushes, two rosemary plants, four juniper shrubs, four asparagus plants, one crepe myrtle, one coreopsis and three speedwell plants. One pair of brand new medium-duty garden gloves from K-Mart, already coming apart at the seams.
I was fully present with my arms as I raked gravel, my right hip as I leaned into the shovel, my back as I dragged plants and soil amendments into and out of the back of a vehicle. I sweat. I felt the sun on my arms and the breeze on my face and clay clinging to my hands.
I sat on the front steps with a tiny lizard. I played live and let live with the dirt daubers who are building a mud hut somewhere around the porch. I stood for five full minutes trying to determine if the snake across the driveway was alive and dangerous or dead and somewhat less threatening before I took another step. I listened to the cows who live a half mile down the road. I napped with my cat.
Most of the time, I live in my head. I am, therefore I think. I think more than I feel. What a glorious thing to get out of my head for four days and into my body, into the earth, into the moment.
I’m not even going to probe that for some deeper meaning. I am content to feel it and be grateful.
Stepped out on my balcony last night, plate in one hand, glass of iced mint tea in the other. Not yet late, but overcast, so it was neither too hot nor too sunny for comfortable dining out.
As I pulled out a chair, the bistro table lit up at the very instant I sensed a flash over my shoulder. Before I had time to name it lightning, thunder exploded like rifle shot, so loud and so close I expected to whirl around and see a limb cracking and falling from one of the giant trees beyond my third-floor balcony.
Nothing to see. But I knew a declaration of war when I heard one. I covered my willow rocker, took down my red umbrella, brought in the folding chair, retreated to my dining table. The sky remained calm, the wind never picked up. In the end, I could have stayed outside, dined to the music of birds and the hum of traffic from the nearby expressway, let the day fade out. But when nature roars, I’m not bold enough to call the bluff of a natural world that continues to prove it is cruel and capricious.
Tonight, without the all-talk-and-no-action fireworks, it has begun to rain here at the intersection of afternoon and evening. A gentle rain, no wind, even. I’m going to sit out on the balcony and wait to find out if nature — unfeeling as ever — waters my tiny garden or if I’ll be up doing it myself tomorrow morning.