Back to Eden

Peony, Sarah Bernhardt

I noticed something on the stem of a new Peony. Someone said, “I’ve given up on being so obsessional in the garden.” I ranted about the Groundhog chewing my flowers heads off. Someone told me, “I’ve come to understand it’s not really so important.” I’ve always been quite sensitive (water doesn’t roll off this duck’s back. It sits there, to be examined. “What did she mean by that? Why would he do that?”)

It’s not obsessional to be observant. And a flower garden with just stalks (he eats the leaves as well) is not so beautiful. Gardening is not a hobby, any more than Photography. It’s an art form. Its how my soul chooses to manifest itself, tangibly (and once, through my beloved clarinet). If an artist paints a fabulous mural, and returns to find it buried beneath black paint, do you say, “No matter! Make another one!”

A garden is sacred space. To rise each morning to find it decimated feels violating, to me (perhaps if i hadn’t been raped…). Go dig in the woods. I’ll be delighted to meet you there. These flowers are not for you (I know this is wrong. I can’t help it). I work hard to keep them happy and when I go to bed you wreck it, the opposite of magic!

So these well-intentioned comments, like a splinter in my foot, have been causing me to wonder, “Do I care too much? Is there such a thing?” The family I came from didn’t care much at all, and that’s no way to live, either. So balance is necessary. I understand that. But my flowers are like children, or the wild swans I’ve come to love. I don’t own them, but I do so want them to be happy. Will do anything in my power to keep them safe from harm.

When I was young, feeling misunderstood, I would take my dollies and go home. I didn’t have the confidence to explain myself. Didn’t think people cared to see me. I would give them what they wanted and push my own wants deeply underground, annoyingly unimportant. I want a gorgeous garden. A peaceful sanctuary. A place of magic, wonder, whimsy. I’d like things to stay where I’ve put them, not be flung about, uprooted. I want a certain stability.

All roads seem to carry me back to Eden. It’s a metaphorical conundrum I can’t stop grappling with. Why lose Paradise? Why is our longing to understand, punishable? “Because I said so” once made me livid, as a child. I’m doing better, letting go of all the “Why’s?” but this one I can’t seem to shake. I still hate predators and marauders. I know I need to move beyond my agitation. It’s not compassionate to begrudge the hungry animals.

There’s a snake in my garden (oddly enough, there is. I like him. My neighbor tries to kill it, ironically). There’s a snake in everyone’s garden. I don’t feel persecuted (some days I do), but seem to have trouble accepting it. “Her flowers are heavenly. Why are mine targeted for destruction?” And what am I to do about it? Smile lovingly and buy him more when he’s run out of snacks?

I can be saintly, but I am not a saint. Perhaps the Groundhog’s come to file my rough edges (and the chipmunks, squirrels, and insects). Love protects, but even Love can’t save us from dying.

We can die with Love, in Love, surrounded by Love, and, in the end, isn’t that the perfect way to leave this great green earth?

There are moments of enchantment everywhere. Brilliant blossomings, the Groundhog hasn’t eaten. Savor them sweetly. Every offering to Beauty is a blessing. Every acceptance of her gifts, a sacred covenant. Every enjoyment, every sharing, a miracle.

LBM 7/7/16 (for Jim Reeves, who wanted a garden story).