After 32 years, our drain field gave up draining and needed to be repaired. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, I know, but it’s really been the focus of my days lately. And it just so happened that we’d made our vegetable garden over top of the field, lovingly but carelessly, and although I have a small notebook with early notes about what I wanted where, it never really worked out that way. My novels are short on plot and my garden is short on design. It seems I’ve always been drawn to colour, texture, the atmosphere of abundance — this has never been particularly helpful when people ask “What’s your book about?” or when I need to remember where exactly I put tulips last spring and which peony is deep pink, which is red.
In May, this is what the garden looked like:
So, lush, green, with a (I like to think) spirited sense of joy.
And here’s what the new area looks like today after many days of fairly brutal work with a pick, shovel, rake, trowel.
It’s not beautiful — yet. It’s not finished of course and it will be entirely different from its earlier self, mostly because we want to know the exact location of the lines in future, so we’re building the beds inbetween them. But today is the first day that I actually felt that the glass was half-full instead of half-empty. I re-planted many perennial greens — lamb salad, kale, arugula, blood-red sorrel — and watered them in with fish fertilizer. That big mound you can see in the foreground will be framed on Sunday, using lumber milled from the cedar I wrote about in Mnemonic: A Book of Trees: “…some planks which began as one dimension but then tapered as the logs narrowed. I could see them as benches or tables, balanced on stumps.” John has been working out the best way to use the boards we stored under the house and I have to say that for him, this particular glass has always been half-full. He could see that the mud-hole, heavy with rock, would improve day by day while I moped around, wanting everything fixed immediately, wanting the ferns back, the thickets of sage and columbine, the corner bed where the bean tee-pees went. He just kept sawing boards, filling the wheel-barrow with rocks, smoothing out the heaps of soil, plucking out roots that he thought might be day-lilies or tulip bulbs. The other morning we looked out to see the elk just to the right of this photograph, their rumps towards us, and we knew they’d been poking around, hoping for kale and garlic tops (which the deer never bothered but which the elk adore so we extended the black mesh fence to include the garlic box). That very muddy area in front of the fence used to be lawn. Well, to be honest, it was mostly moss with clover and dandelions (a perfect bitter addition to salad). I’ve been squinting, hoping that I can imagine the area in two or three months, cool and green on spring mornings, snakes making their way down to the garden from the rocks above.