It had rotted away
the piece of tree with the circle of an old cable reel on top
the reel end tipping now, the pots sliding back towards the wall
I took them all off, laid them on the ground
and bent to lift the stump, carry it to the bin
it crumbled in my arms, the bark peeling away in curved fragments
the inside was a dark, rich loam
I held fistfuls of it to my face and breathed its earthy scent
feeling joy rise up in me
gratitude for this gift of the tree’s last dying
I scattered it in a bed of periwinkle
and blessed it with a prayer of thanks
for the life it will bring
Some mornings I sit on a bench in my garden, and I look up at the sky. When we moved into our house, almost fourteen years ago, the trees were small and barely wall height. Now they tower over me. As I write I can hear them whispering in the wind, see them swaying lightly. It is one of my favourite sounds, the wind in the trees. I sense the voice of God in the music of leaves. As I sit in the presence of my trees, I feel watched over, witnessed, held.
Sometimes I wake feeling fragile and full of fears I cannot quite name. I go into the garden and do the work of caring for it. I snip off dead blooms and cut back the Wormwood, scattering it in the beds to ward off bugs. It is a beautiful plant, with its soft feathery leaves and comforting scent. I untangle the Black-eyed Susan from the lavender and tuck its wayward strands into the pyramid of sticks I have put around its stem. By spring it will be a wild profusion of yellow and green. I pick tomatoes and peppers. I gather gooseberries and try not to eat all of them before I go back inside. I never tire of the delicate filigree of the bells that hold them, the papery sound as I peel them back and pop the berry into my mouth. I dig my hands into the soil and plant new things, flowers and herbs and fragrant shrubs whose aroma hangs in the air on hot summer mornings. I harvest thick black compost and marvel at the transformation of scraps and leaves into something so rich and life-giving.
There have been days when my back ached and my hands were sore from this work of tending to the garden. When I could not get all the dirt out from under my fingernails or the creases of my hands. At the end of those days, I have stood watering newly homed seedlings and watched rainbows dance in the arc of the droplets. I have gone out in the rain, and breathed in the smell of soil and plants soaked with it. I have been settled and soothed by the presence of my trees and comforted in the memory of my grandmother, evoked in the scent of Sweet Alyssum.
There are so many gifts to name and acknowledge. For me, the work of caring for a garden, is in so many ways an act of renewal. As I tend to the flowers, I am tending to myself, reminding myself of the goodness of life. The world is so beautiful, stubbornly so. In spite of the brokenness, it is still good.