he Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- May 2000

2 May - afternoon

Intense thunder storms have passed through the area, revitalizing the garden. Rain and thunder woke me from my sleep several times during the past two nights. I love to lie in bed listening to the rain... but I miss actually seeing it. There is nothing so satisfying as watching a good soaking rain from my front porch.

6 May - early morning

I dreamed about moving last night, about leaving my garden for another...

Over the course of the past few weeks, we've made the decision to move and have purchased a new home. We need the living space, and the new house more than doubles what we have. The yard is huge, it is exciting to think about starting over with a new garden, a semi-blank slate. Still, I have tended this garden for sixteen years. It is difficult to imagine not sitting on the front porch here, up among the trees, watching the rain or the mockingbirds defending their turf.

I have promised myself that I will be patient, that I will not immediately set out to create a new garden. Instead I want to acquaint my self with the new space, to learn its patterns of sun and shade, and start to improve its soil.

There will be much to write about and still more to do in the upcoming weeks. I look forward to the challenges ahead, and yet...

10 May - afternoon

Summer is upon us. I spend my mornings in the garden tending to the needs of the plants, and then retreat indoors. Despite the heat, there are still many joys to experience: the Rose of Sharons, or Altheas, are in full flower, as are the daylilies, and yesterday I watched while a pair of mockingbirds fed their very insistent fledgling. It was course-feathered and fat, not at all like its sleek parents, and its squawking was far from refined. I couldn't help but wonder how many possumhaw berries it would take to fuel its first thrilling song. Despite these pleasures, the careless ease of early spring has passed, and from here on out, every day will involve chore-like tasks simply to keep the garden alive.

Hidden away, in the coolness of my home, I have been preparing myself for a class that I will be teaching at the Seton Cove, a local spirituality center. The course is titled "The Poetics of Creation" - I will be using poems from various traditions as "sacred texts" that interpret the experience of the divine in nature. Among my favorites are poems from the ancient Chinese. Buddhism flowered in China during the T'ang Dynasty and the poetry of that era is deeply evocative of the gentle spirit of the Buddhist tradition. These are definitely poems for gardeners, it has been a gift to read and re-read them in the darkness, away from the heat.

Earlier today, I was interviewed on the local NPR affiliate about my class, and I read a few of Kenneth Rexroth's translations of Chinese poetry. It was wonderful sharing those words with an invisible audience, I felt like I was offering them a garden to retreat to in the middle of their busy days. However, when I came home and walked through my own garden, all I could see was wilted foliage and plants that needed to be pruned. I slumped back into my air-conditioned cave, not wanting to do any work in the mid-day sun. Instead, I opened Stephen Mitchell's book "The Enlightened Heart."

This was on the page that I opened:

My daily affairs are quite ordinary;

but I'm in total harmony with them.

I don't hold on to anything, don't reject anything;

nowhere an obstacle or conflict.

Who cares about wealth and honor?

Even the poorest things shine.

My miraculous power and spiritual activity:

drawing water and carrying wood.

by Layman P'ang

China, c. 740 - 808

23 May - morning

I am in the throes of moving and haven't had much time for reflection. We will be moving to our new home at the end of the week and I am very excited about the huge task of creating a new garden.

This morning, while watering my old friend, my present garden, I thought about what it is to leave one garden behind for another. It is sad to think that I will no longer have the daily rituals and reassurances of this place; that I will be leaving the rusty blackhaw viburnums, weeping yaupons, and Japanese maples behind. I lingered as I watered, giving everything an deep soaking, deeper than was really needed. I pulled a few weeds, hackberry seedlings and the like, it has required so much of my attention to keep them at bay, I wondered who will do this in the future...

I have always believed in fate, that by and large, things turn out as they were meant to. I trust that some new gardener will come along and adopt this place as his or her own. Meanwhile, I am readying myself for the work and joy that lies ahead. More soon.

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