‘the backyard parables: lessons on gardening, and life’
An excerpt from “The Backyard Parables” sets the scene:
ONCE UPON A TIME, A faithless twenty-five-year-old got down on her knees and fashioned her first garden. It was a sorry thing, but also a matter of great pride, this perennial checkerboard imprinted on a sloping bit of ground outside her family’s kitchen door.
As if pricking through a preprinted canvas pattern of counted cross-stitch, she populated the tiny strip of inadequately cultivated soil with an equal number of two kinds of perennials. Half were low-growing, succulent rosettes called Sempervivum, or hens and chicks, houseleeks, or live-forever—since as she tucked these first roots in, she unwittingly entered a world where all the characters masquerade behind multiple nicknames, and where art and science collide so that there’s no straight answer to anything (which miraculously somehow makes everything perfectly clear). The others were Kniphofia (a.k.a., red-hot pokers, torch lilies, or tritomas) a tall thing with vaguely obscene wand-like flowers striped in hot sunset shades.
She did not leave proper space between, nor note the light conditions either plant required. But for that moment, there was peace on earth, and trust in her heart.
In the practice of blind devotion to living things called gardening, that is where I got started: assuming a posture of supplication and gridding out an alternating arrangement of plants that should never be combined, but what did I know? Just one thing, really:
I knew that the postage-stamp-sized color photos on their plastic nursery labels had made lust rise up in me. Over all the other choices at the garden center where I had innocently wandered that morning, seeking a distraction from things at home, I wanted these beauties for myself.
This is how it begins: with the deadly sin of lust. Then you kneel a lot, and when you finally get up again, you’re not meek or humble quite yet but filled with the germ of another transgression—that of pride, which is said to be the worst of all and often the root of the others. Like the knees of your trousers, you will never quite recover.
(…continues on the Facebook Chapter Share page here)
‘and I shall have some peace there’
A little excerpt from “And I Shall Have Some Peace There” sets the scene:
I WAS A ‘BIG SUCCESS,’ PEOPLE TOLD ME, but the secret I never spoke in reply or anytime was my belief that I had long ago given up on me—the one whom others, in equations of family, love, and work, relied upon—choosing the easy route over a path toward things they don’t necessarily pay you or pat you on the back for….
If I was so successful, I wanted to say back to my best friend and my accountant and the guy who cuts my hair and everyone else lovingly offering praise all those years, then why had I pushpinned a cryptic note to myself on the kitchen wall, a plaintive shorthand list called ‘Tolerances,’ as in, how much can you tolerate of what for how long? Why were all my years-old diaries aching with phrases like the hit-by-car feelings of my workday and Where is my creativity? and that clincher, Who or what am I waiting for?