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I often think that I should like to have my house front on this mass of dull red bushes, omitting other flower plots and borders, transplanted spruce and trim box, even graveled walks–to have this fertile spot under my windows, not a few imported barrowfuls of soil only to cover the sand which was thrown out in digging the cellar…Bring your sills up to the very edge of the swamp, then (though it may not be the best place for a dry cellar), so that there be no access on that side to citizens. Front yards are not made to walk in, but, at most, through, and you could go in the back way.

Yes, though you may think me perverse, if it were proposed to me to dwell in the neighborhood of the most beautiful garden that ever human art contrived, or else of a Dismal Swamp, I should certainly decide for the swamp.

– Thoreau, “Walking”

 

It’s funny to read this after just reading Cole Swensen’s Greensward (and, a while back, Ours). She is so into the contrived, constructed garden space, the formal walkways and mapping of landscape. Every blade of grass the same length. An aesthetics of nature at right angles, geometric.

 

from my first garden, two years ago

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I went outside to water the garden, and on a whim I tugged at one of the many grassy stalks invading the place. Then I couldn’t stop. I just kept grabbing and tugging and throwing the vines away. Turns out maybe my garden is dying because I never weed it? Poor little tomatoes were all choked up in weeds.

Now I am once again adorned by seventy-two mosquito bites.

Rain, almost every day. I never have to water the garden anymore. It needs weeding, and most of the tomato plants have died. I’m trying desperately to save the basil.

Either the submissions in my queue are really excellent right now, or I’m just in some kind of forgiving mood. Feels like every other submission is getting slushed (this is a good thing).

Today is my birthday! I never know how to handle birthdays. I come from a long tradition of bad birthdays. But this one will be great! I can feel it. I don’t have to travel anywhere, and I don’t think everyone has forgotten my birthday (that really only could have happened in the pre-Facebook era. Shows how old I am?).

Here is the very first ripe tomato from my garden, which I ate just a few minutes ago:

It was an itty bitty cherry tomato, because in a sad turn of events, pretty much all of the larger tomatoes have blossom end rot. Whomp whomp. The cherries all look lovely though, starting to turn colors, and there’s some giant okra growing, along with teeny peppers and watermelon. And I fell asleep last night after a long conversation with boyfriend about my book and what it means to me and how it makes meaning and what its philosophy is, so that was a nice way to ring in my birthday.

Earlier in the summer I tried to get rid of the fire ants in my garden, and I kind of vaguely succeeded, but there are still at least six or seven large ant mounds in my backyard (just not in the middle of my garden bed). There are two mounds I have to walk through in order to get to the backyard from my porch. I think of them as Scylla and Charybdis as I chuckle to myself, and step lightly.

And just because I couldn’t go out there without taking more pictures, here is my garden growing:

some kind of full-size red tomato

black cherry tomatoes (or they will be)

the okra patch

FIRST OKRA FLOWER AND I LOVE IT

will be a red bell pepper, someday

moons and stars watermelon vine

moons and stars, even on the leaves. swoon.

a coleus from the farmer’s market

lettuce leaf basil

teeny tiny genovese basil, from seed

oregano from seed, so small you almost can’t see it

waiting patiently/angrily at the door

We did this last night:

 

And this:

 

Shortly followed by this:

 

Which then became this:

 

Yessssssssssssssssss:

 

I’ve never made challah before in my life, so this was a surprise. We ended up with two loaves, one of which we ate most of immediately, and another that we made french toast out of this morning. There is still a lot left. I have a feeling I’m going to start showing up on people’s doorsteps with challah.

Before the baking, I also read a ton of BWR submissions and watered the garden, so it was a pretty productive day. Still no sitting-down-to-write, though.

I have just returned from checking in on the garden at my new apartment, and it is great. It is more than great. It is growing. The tomatoes are flowering, and I caught a bumblebee going from bud to bud. The fire ant beds even look smaller.

Gardening is not a thing that I have a lot of experience with, but I’ve been getting up to do it every other morning, dragging the hose through the ant beds and pulling up weeds like nobody’s business. It’s one of those activities that calms me, active and requiring thought, a presence in the moment. Yoga and dance have been like that for me in the past, and horseback riding, too. The necessity of presence in your body and not in your mind (or at least not on the surface of your mind). When the writing is good, it feels like that, too.

Also, my sister is coming to town today! This is the first time a family member has visited me in Alabama, almost two years since I moved here. I’m very, very excited. That picture is an accurate depiction of how we like to have fun.