Statue standing on head

To Appreciate a Garden

To appreciate a garden, be a worm, the soil rich, loose, and you so valued.  Each time the soil is turned, you—fat, and squiggling back to your garden life—are celebrated.  You eat your way through earth, tunneling through roots, the beauty above you made possible by your dark satisfactions.

To appreciate a garden, be an ant.  Crawl over the tight buds of peonies.  Find the strawberries  before the birds and gardeners do, and crawl right into that sweetness.  Climb the okra toward that sweet opening of purple and cream flower:  hurry, it will only be there for one day.  March toward what you know to be sticky, creamy, ambrosial.

To appreciate a garden, be a bee, for everything flowers sweetly before it fruits and seeds, each to its season.  Roses love you, as do elderberry, blueberry, hawthorn, thyme and sage.  Lavender and sedum compete for your attention, while clematis climbs higher and higher on impossible trellises.  That’s okay—you can fly.

To appreciate a garden, be a bird.  Worm and bee feed you, as do the larvae of cabbage moth, hiding under those broad leaves.  Or the swallowtail caterpillar clinging to the lacy edges of fennel.  If you are patient, you wait for the strawberries to soften, the bright red cherries to darken, the crab apples to pucker, the mulberries to turn black.  You will feast, ignoring scarecrow and pinwheel, flitting through paradise.
To appreciate a garden, be a cat, lying in the shade of okra, Brussels sprouts, green bean and corn.  Your master will pat you, glad that your presence keeps squirrels from tomatoes, birds from berries, rabbits from greens.  After a long morning you might yawn, roll over in the dust and stretch, walk toward water and a small plate of sardines.

To appreciate a garden, be a child.  Among vegetables, pick only to eat:  cherry tomatoes bursting in your mouth, tender crescent green beans warm and sweet.  And who says you don’t like salad, at least when served in the garden:  the musky celery taste of cilantro, the peppery arugula, the sturdy oak leaf lettuce, the wispy licorice of fennel.  Don’t stop.  There are clusters of broccoli, cucumbers no bigger than your fingers, onion tops to sour in your mouth.  Arrive at the watermelon patch and split one open, juice running down your hands, then your chin.  You have found your dessert.

To appreciate a garden, be a gardener.  From the seeded earth you have brought forth beauty, nutrition, and pleasure enough to last beyond seasons.  You have nurtured worm, ant, bee, cat and child.  And don’t forget yourself.  The richness of a garden must be shared, but the satisfaction is selfish, proprietary, and proud.  Enjoy that.
To appreciate a garden, be a statue, planted among all that flowers and dies.  You will be in the garden through seasons, years, lifetimes.  You are inert, but your presence is alive.

To appreciate a garden, be the sky.

A version of "To Appreciate a Garden" first appeared in The Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers










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