visitors to paradise
Tags: beans, Beauty, birds, butterfly gardening, cardinal climber vine, chickadee, Dylan Thomas, gardening for hummingbirds, heirloom tomatoes, hummingbirds, Louisiana Purple-podded Pole Bean, mystery, nasturtium, okra, organic gardening, paradise, purple-podded pole bean, Roma tomato, Rutgers tomato, small-leafed basil, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, the Victory Garden, tomato vine, using natural items as trellises and supports, view from the kitchen window
I hardly took any photos this summer of one of the main causes of my enraptured feelings in the Victory Garden. This is because, well, it’s hard to capture the birds, nearly impossible to catch the hummingbirds — although I managed it once, and that because it flew right up to where I was standing and brushed my arm, obviously portrait ready. (Put it this way: I have a lot more respect for the nature photographers now!)
I can’t regret that all these beauties are not on film. They are in my memory forever, and that counts for a lot with me. Some of these moments were so powerful and deep that I suspect I will be remembering them on my deathbed, if I get an opportunity to delve into memory.
In early September, F. called me to the kitchen window, where this photo was taken, and we watched together as birds flew back and forth, landing alternately on tomato cages and bean supports and several trellises constructed of old vines, roots and dead branches, pecking around among the fallen fruit of the overenthusiastic ‘Juliette’, headed to the bird feeder or back to the woods, and stopping along the way, just as this chickadee is in the shot, on the fallen sapling F. had used as an emergency support when the ‘Rutgers’ tomato in a pot on the porch went tumbling over the side.
As we watched, a hummingbird came and took her time sipping from the cardinal climber trumpets that had grown up the porch railing and finally intermingled with the tomato, purple-podded pole bean, and morning glory vines in such a way that it was impossible to separate one from the other. (Even now, I cannot separate the mass of growth there in order to clean up the spent plants because some continue to grow and flower and set seed, and the ‘Roma’ tomato produces about one tomato per week, in spite of the cold.)
And as I sighed with pleasure, watching this, a butterfly came along and tested the depths of a bean blossom with her long, curly tongue. The whole view continued to pulse with the smaller signs of life, as well, bumblebees, yellow jackets, ladybugs, and the playful breezes that barely ruffled the neat row of small-leafed basil, yet sent the nasturtium foliage swirling as if in a gale.
“You’ve done it,” F. said. “You’ve created a paradise.”
I was surprised and blushed. First of all, it would never have happened without F.’s decision to do it, so it’s really “we” who have done… whatever it is that we’ve done. And assuredly we have done things. Gardening is not accomplished by sitting on your hands and wishing.
But over and over this summer, I look up, maybe from something as simple as pulling a weed, and realize that I didn’t do it. There is a power in the Earth, perhaps something like Dylan Thomas’ “force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” and perhaps each of us may name it differently according to our spiritual traditions, but in the garden I am aware of it as never before in my life — and I think that’s saying something. Because I wasn’t exactly unaware before.
I’d call it Mystery, maybe. And it wants to create Paradise. Of that, I am sure. I’m only a kind of conduit to the hands it needs to get the seeds down into the soil, to the eyes that keep watch and help things along here and there, and F. is also a conduit to the hands and the strength and the will needed to break the tired, solid crust of the soil and turn it with the heat already blazing in April, and then to begin the job of restoring the soil to all it can be.
And the Mystery likes for us to also be personally involved and to use our individual creativity and sensibilities, which is, after all, a part of It and comes from It, I think, so that F. decided the shape of the garden and the design of the paths as he dug, and I contributed whimsy and practicality and a hope for joy and birds and bees and all of the visitors who make me happy.
This photo may not look like Paradise to you. But then, that’s kind of the point. Only the Mystery knows what kind of Paradise could come through you if you listened and decided to act on it. You might have a general idea or vision of it already. You may even now be bringing it to fruition. You’re probably doing both, some things maturing even as other things arise as mere wisps of possibility.
The possibility could be in the form of a piece of visual art, a story, an idea for how to reorganize a room, a poem or a choreography, a new recipe with what’s on hand, a pair of hand-knit socks, a bowl or a blog post or a song that’s never been sung before. Or it could be something a little “bigger” — although I’m convinced no creative acts are small — such as starting a family, taking a new direction in your career, changing an old, unhealthy relationship pattern, moving somewhere new, making a friend, altering your perspective, accommodating another point of view.
Who knows? It may just be starting a little garden out in the back yard.