It has been an amazing spring here at the foot of the Blue Ridge in Virginia. One of those Springs where everything goes right and all my old friends in the garden show up on time to remind me why it is that gardening is such an important part of my life. I have not been writing. I have been giddy. It’s all I can do to sit here and type now as the darkness lifts and the mockingbirds sing back and forth to each other of the coming of a new day. At no time of the year am I so alive. May is my elixir.
I am the proud caretaker of three enormous and ancient magnolia trees. Flowers as big as your head and large rubbery leaves that drop in May to make way for the new. People see them as messy because they do drop at a time when most gardeners have no wish to see their nicely tended earth and flower beds littered with old leaves. It is labor intensive to keep things neat and any gardener in his/her right mind wouldn’t stake out gardening territory beneath giant magnolias. In my case, my rake and my long stick with a nail at the end provide a kind of comfort, a kind of lesson in life that for some reason I need every year at this time. My magnolias are my “philosophy” trees. I have named them Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, although, what their real names are they keep a secret between themselves. I think of them as such because they drive the lesson home that nothing is ever done and that life itself is a process, an exercise in doing what has to be done.
I have no doubt that my neighbors think me mad. One simply does not create intricate gardens beneath magnolia trees. They are simply too messy. To this I say yes, they are, and that is precisely why I do it. They are my Nunnery and they are my Zen Monastery. They are the beneficent engines of the entropic, mindless, work that sets my mind free to wander the universe in time spent out of time. I get muddy and dirt cakes beneath my nails, gnats kamikaze into my eyes and I twist and reach to spear that last elusive leaf hiding among the hostas or the tulips or the enormous bluebells and there I meet a toad. All the while the birds sing and dart above my head, making their nests to bring forth the next generation. It is life to me and there in my garden I am in it in a way that pleases me like nothing else. In May it IS my art and when the last of the nights fallen leaves is tucked away in my barrel I stop and admire my work. Then, as if on call, the morning wind blows and a thousand more leaves flutter to the ground. I laugh. My day has begun as my philosophical friends teach me once again that nothing is ever done and in that life’s real beauty resides.
It rained Saturday, so I read a book. I would like to recommend it, seriously, to two people I know from this internet blogging world of ours. Robert Redus and AnitaNH… listen up, this is for you both. If you have not already, I highly recommend that you read “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. Besides utterly magnificent writing there is something important in there for you both. Don’t ask me how I know.