There is a vintage postcard I like, one I’ve intended to frame since I first laid eyes upon it, that says, “In the spring, we are getting busy in the garden.” This is exactly what M and I did today, without the dirty subtlety that makes me giggle. After we discovered that the cherry tree that grew beside the patio was diseased – when M leaned against it and heard the sickening crack of roots breaking – we visited the greenhouse and bought a Royal Raindrops crabapple. We likely won’t ever see the tree at its loveliest, the shadow cast like a projection, weak and fine as a skeletal leaf.
In uprooting what was old and rotted we found granite boulders and bulbs buried too shallow last autumn, ugly as old onions rolled into the depths of the pantry, like bald heads or shaved testicles. M was digging. I was pruning. The irony that I must cut into live wood to know if it is live, to recognize in the minty stripe of health another season survived, or read in the rings of dry wood a finite promise that doesn’t seem to me to belong to any tree. I’ve always imagined them like turtles. They’ll live forever, or at least, certainly longer than me.
I was uncomfortable by how much I had to uproot and cut away. I did not like to mulch too much and make it seem like a human has been here.
But this summer I will imagine myself barefoot on a carpet of sweet woodruff that will, I hope, spread beyond my control. Poisonous or not I will fancy the blooms of my Camelot Rose foxglove little horns to trumpet or faerie cups or hats. I will lay down little stones for feet or fingers far more delicate and more green than mine to pass between the Lobelia and Coral Bells.
Perhaps a child, though not mine. Our business in the garden had to do with other kinds of dirt.