Just coming out of a little clutch of some time off work.
I purposefully arrange this every year as a treat for myself so that every month that has a long weekend, I take a few days off to extend the break.
And, to get a LOT of things done.
Strangely though, although I was very happy for much of the time as I worked away, digging, sifting soil, dragging my gloved hand across my eyes, I did begin to see vignettes from my past garden till suddenly everywhere I looked there was another memory, still bright and shiny and full of remarkable detail: the dimples across the knuckles of my sons’ chubby hands, the slim, pink radishes we slid out of the soil and ate at once, squat, brown toads unearthed, blinking from beneath the darkness of a plank, a little snake dry and ribbon-like in my hand that makes Frasier gasp: “OH! Look how he’s breathing! He must be so scared!” and trying to fathom how it can be that I am the age I am, in Earth years, and how so much time can have passed by? Passed me by, especially.
More and more I feel and sound like a complete cliché, an idiot, yet all those lines our mothers trotted out were actually true, as it turns out. Where HAVE the years gone? How can I feel two full decades younger than I am and then catch sight of myself in the car mirror – oh, cruelest mirror of them all – and realize that maybe something has happened that is beyond Sephora’s assistance …
In my mind’s eye, I can see Frasier most earnestly digging in the dirt at the end of the lot, hoping to excavate more ancient marbles for his collection or possibly jagged, fragments of beautiful blue and white china discarded there by previous residents long ago. One day he finds the perfect tiny skull of a creature – squirrel, we conclude – the jaw bone still intact, the white profile like a cameo. Later still, I will pour myself a glass of Pinot Grigio topped high with ice, while Frasier naps deeply, still outside with me but now swathed in an old tartan sleeping bag I place under the awning of our deck which he pronounces to be sleeping “in the jungle.” The same wooden wind chimes nudge each other today in a hollow, clip-clop sound as the wind catches them but now it’s only me listening.
Further down the garden is the lilac I remember planting, pushed into the ground like a clutch of bony hands but now it’s a sprawling tree sinking with mauve blossoms and a heady scent that will only last a few days. Every year I liberate a few of these and bring them indoors in order to prolong the perfume and the beauty. Underneath this tree, I finally forced myself to bury (just last year) all of the urns that house the ashes of my most beloved dogs and cats. Yes, there’s about six urns under there now and I sentimentally fancy that they would like this, since the dogs used to love lying in the bushes and trees back here.
I was only reminiscing yesterday to The General that we used to have a pair of ducks – Mr. & Mrs. Mallard we called them – who would visit at our pond usually only once in a season, as though they were enjoying a weekend away at lakefront property.
Weirdly, today two ducks appeared and in the most elegant way possible, set about gliding the length of the pond as though they were pretending to be swans just for the day.
I did anxiously count the fish after they’d left (everyone accounted for!) but apparently The Mallards were dining elsewhere.