The tomatoes rotted on the vine before they’d ripened last spring. The strawberries never bore fruit. (Marie suggested using a feather to brush the pollen from one plant to another.) Did I tell you the spinach bolted before I recognized its maturity?

I knew going in that I knew nothing. I shrugged, and figured I could trust the wild things to grow. And they did: the beets beautifully-veined leaves filled the greenhouse, the cilantro flowered with unfamiliar white buds.

Three ceramic pots
left on the veranda broke
when the hard freeze came
and not unexpectedly
mind you, a natural climax

Photo: Ren Powell

(Or The Weight of Garments in the Pull of the Stream)

When we moved into this house,
the old woman was digging turnips from the ground
on a Sunday morning.

She would cut back the rhododendrons
when they began to block the walkway
to her front door. She would sort the decorative stones
blown into the flower beds. She would pull nets like swaddling
over the young fruit-

She told me she never enjoyed gardening before
she inherited the work from her husband.

Another four years, she tilled and planted
the small kitchen garden –
She tended and harvested. She died
in winter – now two years ago.

She’d slipped on the deck after pulling the last
of the year’s carrots from the ground
with her bare hands. It’s quickly done, the moss
growing so quickly over the boards from the end of summer.

They wrapped her light, bird-body
in a housecoat and drove her across town
where she floated away in a soft bed, in clean sheets.

On Sunday I’ll rouse myself to work in the garden.
I’ll sort the bark from the marble stones we brought in this summer
to surround the new, blue ceramic birdbath. I’ll check
the hedgehog’s water bowl we keep hidden in the holly hedge.

I’ll clear out the beds of my new, little greenhouses –
crowded with the sweet potato shoots that never took hold
and the blood-veined leaves of beetroots that are rotting
into the soil, preparing it for next spring.

I’ll try again

while the new neighbors park their car
where the old woman’s strawberries were. They’re talking
of paving over the yard entirely
since they like big gatherings at the week-ends.

The late autumn rain runs off the roofs of both our houses
and flows into the ditch that runs down the middle of the driveway –
leaving wayward stones, dead leaves, and plastic wrappers
in the trap.

There is still that to clear out on a Sunday morning.

Probably not the ideal veggie to greens ratio for parsnip?

The tomatoes I replanted when they outgrew the greenhouse are now rotting greenly on the vine. I figure there is a metaphor there.

The garden was never cultivated. I never cultivated the garden.

The coriander sprouted – then flowered, and quickly went to seed. The beets were too crowded to thrive, and the sweet potatoes sent shoots where there was no soil in which to land.

I’ve no idea what’s up with the strawberry plants, with their wide, lily pad-like leaves, but no berries.

I’ve brought the angel wing into the house now that the temperatures have dropped below 15C. The perennials are dying. Or going dormant.

The honeysuckle has twined its way far past the trellis I put up in May. It’s choking the thuja, but blooming with such a fragrance that I can’t bring myself to cut it back.

I do have hope. There’s the winter to read, and to learn. And there is something to be said for learning one’s place in the making of things.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

INTERPRETIVE TRANSLATION OF TALMUDIC TEXTS. Gratefulness.org

There is a personal grief in private failures, in every missed deadline – every lost hour.
And a communal mourning for every collective dream deferred.

I’ve been meditating on impermanence. I even learned to spell the word correctly. But accepting that things are always in motion is easier than accepting the futility of our determinations with regard to where that motion will take us.

My circle of influence is tiny.

But I smile at the woman I pass in the grocery store and hope there are ripples of influence. Maybe that is all any of us can do. And maybe this is everything?

This, and the daily attention required to cultivate what we plant?


I spent Saturday brooding a mood of discontent.
Fortunately the shell is thin and cracks easily –

I ran in the evening.
And the forest is always a place for sloughing what’s become useless
and for new growth.

We are wild things, after all.

Cultivation is a balancing act.