...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Secret Garden

I have no picture to share today. I thought about getting a stock one, but decided that defeated the purpose of today's reflections. Here's what I mean.

Sweltering heat blanketed my town early this day, almost too hazy hot even for morning garden work. Minnie, the family's black lab, wandered over and begged a bonus run through the cool spray from the hose before she ran to sit in the shade of a nearby tree. After watering, I shucked a dozen ears of corn in the shade near her. Then leaving a golden pyramid of clean corn on the back stoop, I wandered back into the garden, scattering the shucks and silks around, practicing what I preached in just the last post: natural composting. All the while I tossed the silks, a beautiful monarch butterfly flitted gracefully in the basil beside me. She was the first of her kind to visit the garden this season, so I of course, decided to retrieve the camera and share her beauty with you here.

As soon as I returned to the garden, however, she her place in the herbs and was perched on the fence. She stayed just long enough for me to see her again, but not long enough for me to capture her image. She fluttered away and did not return. Finally, I went back in the house and stored the camera away again.

I was sorry I couldn't share her. She was truly lovely. But as I returned to the kitchen and prepped the corn for its season in the garage freezer, my mind's eye began to see her in a new way.

I thought about my next door neighbor who often came out for a smoke and asked how the garden was doing, or another who stopped mowing long enough to comment on how good my cucumber plants looked. I thought of the one on the other side, who earlier this spring offered me a few extra tomato plants as he'd been a bit too enthusiastic with the seed planting and had practically 100 tomato seedlings thriving and looking for a home. Basically, I thought about how my garden is naked in the neighborhood--even though it is in the backyard. A trail runs behind our house where the children trek in droves to the retention field to play baseball and football, and the rest of the children on the block get to study it in rhythmic bounds, as their view is lifted above the fenceline by every bounce they take on one neighbor's free-for-all trampoline. Very little about my garden is secret--nothing hidden the way it would be if I had a garden outside town, where mostly just rabbits and deer would turn an appraising eye on it. And I like it that way. My garden is something of a mission for me. I think everyone should have the joy and privelege of fresh-picked produce.

But today I realized that a few things are secret about it. A few things are just mine. I am the one who tends it; cares for its changing needs; reaps its bounty. I am the primary one who invests time and--especially on a day like today--sweats for its benefit. What I got in return today was this lovely but surreptitious guest--my monarch friend.

And I thought how it can be the same for anyone who works to grow living things--even if only a philodendron hanging over the kitchen sink or a planter of petunias on the back deck. You have your moments of private joy in the beauty you foster. So now I'm thankful to that butterfly, thankful that she flew away before I could lock her on film, because she made me remember to appreciate each little offering of secret beauty in my garden.

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