May 6, 2011
This evening I headed over to the garden after dinner for (I thought) some recreational hedge trimming (yes, I said recreational). But before I had even swung open the iron and cedar gate on the 4ft stone wall surrounding much of the hillside, my eye was drawn to a larger-than-normal opening in the dry stack wall. 15 minutes later, intently engaged in a completely unexpected, unplanned activity (more about that in a minute), I was struck –again- by how much gardening is a metaphor for life’s larger arena: We head out with certain expectations in our heads and tools in our hands, only to find ourselves engaging in a completely different activity than we’d anticipated. Furthermore, the tools we brought along aren’t the ones we need for this new task. And in fact if we’d foreseen what we’d really be doing, we might not have ventured forth at all. This is so often true for me in tending my garden, and I think it’s also true for much of life’s twists and turns. (Is it an African proverb that says God made the earth curved so that we couldn’t see too far down the path ahead of us… lest the distant vision cause us to stumble or stop our journey??)
But this is getting too heavy, and my little surprise task was not unpleasant, really. It’s just that as I got down on my hands and knees to better view this opening in my wall, the shapes in the 4-inch square of dark resolved themselves enough to reveal the head of a small snake looking back at me! His little black tounge flickered as he sensed my heat. The children came over to get a look, and he responded to the extra heat and movement by backing up and moving deeper into the labyrinth that is the inside of this two-sided, partially dry-stacked wall.*
So I did what any modern American mother would do: I started picking up rocks and stuffing the hole. It’s when I went inside the garden to check for possible reptile outlets on that side, that I was soon involved in a more lengthy rock-stuffing activity. The space behind an outlet box in the wall turned out to be very ample… rock after rock slid down effortlessly. That’s when I had the above micro-meditation about what I intend to do often being abandoned once I step into my garden. And I think that’s one of the things I like about my relationship with my garden: surprise.
· * In case you haven’t picked up on it, I’m kind of crazy about my stone wall. It was the first big step for me in moving into the financial and physical commitment of my longed-for garden. It was built by a terrific stone mason, Brit White, a true craftsman who does all his own work. I was so determined that he was the one to do the job, that I waited a year with no assurance that he could do the work (he had moved out into the Hill Country) before he had an opening for my project. Brit, if you ever want to work in Austin again, I want to be first in line!