“Sometimes our life reminds me of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing and in that opening a house, an orchard and garden, comfortable shades, and flowers red and yellow in the sun, a pattern made in the light for the light to return to.” -Wendell Berry, from The Country of Marriage
My dream garden is in progress. I have so many plants I adore right now, and a sweet plot of land that echoes Wendell Berry’s clearing in the woods. It’s constantly morphing. Just a couple days ago we were about to host a potluck, and our path to the garden was too much of an unsafe eyesore to invite visitors down (sparsely grassed, muddy, slippery, gouged with bootprints). I decided to put my pot roast on hold and create a completely new garden path in the space of an hour. I didn’t think I’d pull it off so gracefully, but it happened! Instead of attempting to be grass-covered in full shade, the new one is strictly woodland. The path itself is laid with spongy strips of bark, a byproduct of chopping firewood nearby. It snakes around a towering spruce with an exposed trunk, under an arching redbud, and arrives at a clearing that is the entrance to the garden. It’s magical, even in late winter before anything has begun to stir. My dream garden is coming alive. It’s more the atmosphere of a garden that I dream about, the feeling of being in a calm and beautiful place. A lushness I’m in pursuit of. The mossy woodland slopes, the blue of the leeks and morning glories, the pastel pink of the giant zinnias, the soft dewyness of the nasturtiums in the morning. Crunchy apples hanging heavy from the standard trees we planted in 2010. Giant slicing tomatoes that somehow thrive in partial shade in Zone 4-5. A black spot-free rose garden. Chicks and ducks foraging everywhere except the places they’re not supposed to. Endless varieties of songbirds will share a visit every day, decimating the potato beetles and cabbage loopers until every leaf is vibrant with deep green unhindered growth. Dozens of hummingbirds will zip along the softly swaying monarda and families of pileated woodpeckers will watch from the woods’ edge.
For now, a junco
To round out the dream, every extravagantly gourmet meal we eat will come entirely from our backyard. There will be so much extra produce beyond those delicious meals that we will stock our pantry to the gills and still give away hundreds of pounds of food. The tastiest food, at that (you know, heirloom lettuces and Rose Finn Apple potatoes). An infinite number of herbs will be at the ready, too. Plant medicine will cure everything that ails our bodies while building the health of the soil here and in the larger regional ecosystem. They will stretch prolifically from the shade of the sugar maples to the full sun of the strawberries, nestling themselves amongst plants that haven’t yet set foot in my garden but will find themselves here in the not-so-bleak-after-all future. In my dream garden I realize what an abundant place this has always been and will continue to be, undeterred.