In Peeping the Land on August 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm
Peeping the Lane: A Survey
August 30, 2014
From my window, I watch the bog. No human foot treads upon it, not in spring, not in summer, not in this incipient autumn when the grasses and reeds separate from each other by way of color, chartreuse where the winter water course runs, dark forest where the creek enters the bay, pistachio where the grasses mix with each other in disarray. The madness of it drives me to hyperbole: Forsooth! I want to say—the chaos of fall is upon us! Run! Run! Run! Run to the city, to the town, into the house, at least. Cold, wind, snow are galloping toward us and not even in winter does the human foot tread upon the bog.
In Peeping the Land on August 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm
Peeping the Land: A Survey
August 25, 2014
I was taking pictures of Rugosa roses in the back yard—new magenta blossoms side by side with rusty red rose hips—when I heard the geese coming from the other side of the house. They were low and honking and would fly almost above me, I was sure, although the roof of my house was between us and I could not see them or the trajectory of their path. The camera was on a tripod. I swiveled it, pointing upward and just above the trees on the hillside. The geese came in. I followed them, I hoped, with the lens, blindly, without benefit of the monitor, and snapped, and then they were gone, and I wondered if I had captured anything more than this morning’s mottled sky, both open and closed, like a camera while it is taking a picture, or a summer season developing into fall.
In Peeping the Land on August 16, 2014 at 4:52 pm
Peeping the Land: A Survey
August 16, 2014
An editor at Mpls. St. Paul magazine called me once to ask about gardening. It was late January, snowy and cold, and on the bus that morning going to work, he eavesdropped on a conversation between two women who were cooing over a seed catalog that one of them had just received in the mail. They were joyous as they carefully turned each page anticipating their own delight. Not once were they disappointed. The bright colors and ridiculous names never failed them: Ghost Rider Pumpkins, Orchid Daddy Petunias, Yard-long Beans, Dwarf Mount Royal European Plums. He was quite certain that these women would not buy any seeds, let alone plant them. What is it, he wanted to know, about seed catalogs?
That was in 1989, twenty-five years ago. My answer then, published in a short commentary, was that gardens are about hope and promise, and I still believe that. Vulnerable sprouts give way to leaves and flowers; flowers give way to seeds; seeds fulfill the promise of renewal, keeping their own counsel throughout the winter and shouting up from the winter-wet ground in the spring as though by magic. Most of the time in our large-span human lives the beginnings and ends of things are far separated. Fulfillment often passes through us unnoticed. The garden is a welcome metaphor: a sweet beginning, a riotous middle, a contemplative ending that is also a new beginning.
Yesterday I took photos of my current perennial garden. When I looked at them, I was surprised at how small the garden looks against the backdrop of tall grasses, trees, open sky, and distant clouds. My effort seems silly, for how could anything I planted be more beautiful than that horizon. It is as though I am stamping my little foot saying, “I am here, too—I am bright and beautiful, though small and without power.” Should I lay down my trowel? No. There is an earthly promise of seasonal renewal in the horizon, but hope is grounded in the human heart, and that is where we plant our seeds.