The Middle Distance 10.3.14: Goodnight Garden

Oct 2, 2014

Credit by Benjamin Vierling,
Credit Sean Cayton

Goodnight garden.

Goodnight tomato vines, gnarly and black, pulled and piled to rot. Goodnight mutilated squash, shriveled eggplant and peppers and beans. It was great while it lasted.

Goodnight lonely beds, stripped and turned, tossed and raked. Quiet now, isn’t it, after all that nourishing? Just relax and let me feed you. I promise a feast of manure and leaves and compost. Your work is done. For now.

Goodnight worms, flipped sunward, naked wiggle, inching back to cool, dark quarters. Will this winter drive you deeper or will it feel good and warm up top, near the surface? Watch out for those cold nights. Tunnel down in that deep river of dirt.

Goodnight iris and lily. Good show, girls. Now, a nice haircut and a good rest. Spring will be here before you know it and who knows where you’ll end up? It’s so easy to dig you up and move you to a new showcase. If I were a flower, I’d want to be you.

Goodnight apple tree, solitary in your corner next to the fence. Drop your leaves and dream of a mate. One day she’ll arrive and there will be apples. That’s what you were made for. Just stay strong and tall.

Goodnight willows, your sticks nearly bare, down-covered buds a faint memory of the past. Dream of wetlands, of swampy low country. Wish for snow.

Goodnight lilac, you old warhorse, barely watered, never complaining, promising to lead the parade next year as you always do. You’re like that reliable friend who’s always there in the background, then steps up and takes your breath away with a song, a gift, a story.

Goodnight cherries and plums. Will your dreams be in purple and faintest pink?

Goodnight mint, oregano, thyme and basil. Your clipped stems will scent a slow-cooked stew come November. Goodnight to the pots you grew in. Time for a bath and a rest, stacked next to the yellow potting table in the corner. Who knows what your future holds?

Goodnight bees. Your summer of buzzing and hovering and dipping and imbibing is over but you’re still hanging on for one last nip on the cosmos sheltered by the garden wall. One day I’ll open the gate and your buzz will have completely silenced. The day you go who knows where. Come back.  Be sure to come back.

Goodnight butterfly. Fly away home. Lay your eggs. Rest in peace. We will remember your brilliant flutter.

Goodnight seeds. How strange to be you, dropped from a dizzying height, blown about, carried by the wind, trampled and flooded. What a way to find a home. Stay put beneath your blanket of leaves and mulch, and wait. Next year is your year if you don’t get eaten, if the sun can find you. Smaller than a speck of dirt. How you disappear, then pop up the next spring in the most unexpected places.

Goodnight hummingbirds. Hurry on your way. I know, I know, we made it easy for you to stay with our red feeders and abundance of flowers. But the days are growing shorter. Don’t be so independent. It’s time for your winter rendezvous.

Goodnight shovel. Goodnight garden fork. Goodnight hoe. The rake stays out but it’s time for you to go.

Goodnight soft mornings. Garden bench, cup of coffee, tiny bird skirmishes, the dog’s cold nose on a bare thigh. I sit still as a stone, listening to plants take shallow breaths, gathering energy for the work of growing. So quiet I can hear them.

Goodnight long afternoons and bone-warming heat. It was great feeling the burn, bending and hovering, weeding and plucking, watering and inspecting, sweating and getting dirty. 

Goodnight neighbors across the alleyway, playing in the backyard at dusk, screaming when the ball flies over the fence. Goodnight smoke and the smell of grilled meat. Goodnight hushed conversations beneath patio umbrellas, hovering in the night air. Goodnight back step, cool retreat when it was too hot to sleep.

Goodnight soft grass. The dog will miss rolling on you. Look up until the leaves have covered you. Turn brown. We’ll see you next year.

Goodnight garden path, pitted with tracks. I’ll cover you once more before it gets too cold and the leaves and snow will cover you again and again in the months to come, smoothing your surface.

Goodnight garden. It was a good year with rain and hail and wind and sun. With weeds and flowers and fruits and vegetables, time to work, time to think, time to do nothing. I won’t miss you until next April. Rest well.