Lost in the garden

September 20, 2007

One of my favorite things to do is to forget myself in my garden.

Allow me to explain. Off to one side of my vegetable garden is a little open area under a cluster of trees, an elm, a couple of sweet gum, and a sweet olive shrub. The space holds a couple of chaise lounges and chairs. Think of it as a sort of den without walls.

It is generally a quiet spot, at the highest point on the lot, with 50 acres of corn or soybeans on one side, and a gentle slope of trees, shrubs and flowers down to the house on the other side.

I make a lot of my weekend phone calls from up there because the signal is good. Sometimes I go up to read or write.

Or, as a sign my dad used to have said, “Sometimes I sits here and thinks, and sometimes I just sits here.”

I have sat so still there that a cardinal once flew over my head so close that the air of his passage stirred my hair.

Late afternoon is best, when the light slants in just so, and the breezes come alive, dancing in with a cargo of whispers from their passage through the crops.

Not surprising that I would sometimes nod off, stretched out on a chaise like that.

The really neat thing is when I first swim back up to consciousness. I am aware of sound, a rustle of wind, cry of a blue jay. I open my eyes to see leaves fluttering, branches waving, maybe clouds scudding by.

For maybe a second, perhaps two, that is all I know. Not my own name. I don’t remember that “I” am at all, or even the names of the things I am seeing and hearing. I am just a part of it.

Pretty soon, of course, I recognize things not so much by what they are, but by the labels I have been taught to attach to them. I think “tree.” If I were German, it would be “baum,” French, “arbre,” or Spanish, “arbol.” Invented tags that have nothing to do with what the tree, after all, is.

Then it all comes back in a rush, the busy details, who I am, what I need to do that day, the feature story I really need to get started on because it’s due Thursday, the prescription waiting for me at Gruber’s Pharmacy for one of the annoyances of growing older. Growing older itself, which reminds me that there is more time behind me than there is before me. And that someday the leaves will be dancing for somebody else.

I get up, stiffly, and totter off to where I left the lawnmower. There are details to tend to.

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