I woke up late. Late like the rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”. Was it a rabbit? I don’t know. I never read it. All I know is that it’s very late waking up 7:30 a.m. on a summer morning.
I like getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. but I don’t make that much. But I am up by 5:45 a.m. . At that time the birds are singing. The sky is opening. The flowers are sighing. The dew is on the lawn and on the leaves of all the shrubs and flowers and trees. The cars almost don’t exist. I hate cars going by the garden….. Like soldiers off to war.
For me it’s always war. That is how it is. The news this morning. Awful. Always awful, and then the images stick in my head for days weeks and months. Sometimes years.
The only place war doesn’t reach you is in the garden. But then there is a different kind of war there. Of mosquitos, bees and wasps, carpentar ants eating your garage, rabbits and skunks and dead mice, mold, wilt and rot. Not enough water, too much water, not enough sun, too much sun. The wrong colors the wrong shape or size. Too tall too short too dark too light. The deep cherry red and yellow and dirty white petunias sort of didn’t work. Sorta Kinda Maybe. My new mantra: sorta kinda maybe wishy washy mish mash. But then…somehow…it all works.
Late and running out with my instant coffee. Instant coffee, what an abomination. A “perk” from work. We got a jar of instant coffee after our session, and like the greedy little person I am I took it. And then one morning there was no real coffee in the house, no food no real bread even, and I boiled some water and put the crystals in the cup and walked out into the garden. Late. Instant coffee sometimes works. Remember Maxwell House? Good to the last drop……
If you wake up too late there is not enough silence and the cars go by and your neighbors see you with your messed up hair and no makeup and your old robe and your purple plastic sandals and your puffy eyes…staring into the garden.. into all the flowerbeds to see if the roses have new buds, to see how tall the zinnias are that you planted a month late ( they are about 5 inches high and looking green, wide and happy)….the Russian sage is sending out clouds of lavender and is starting to cover up the path to the house so you have to walk through its musty pungent sagey silver grey leaves filled with bees to get to the front door … unless you have the wits to walk around it and just go on the grass and catch up to the path further on… it’s amazing how many people come to the house and think they have to walk down the entire path … they wave their hands around their heads frantically swatting the killer bees they think will take them down… and they might….
I walked out into the garden then, and it was humid, quiet and gloriously green and fragrant with the scent of grass, leaves and flowers….. so quiet. The pale apricot day lilies were opening up all around the service berry tree. The fruit on the trees still hanging on for weeks now and staining the grass with deep purple and blue smashed berries. The birds seem to have missed them and left them on the tree for me to eat. I have. With my gin and tonics, with my morning coffee, with nothing… The tree is filled with masses of berries as though heaven opened up and showered down crates and crates of them. They hang down heavily on the branches almost as big as marbles.. I have shoved whole branches of berries into my mouth greedily and ate them with my gardener Francisco, and his son, my neighbor Lilly, my friends Alan and Frank and my sister… and the squirrels.. and the chipmunks and the smart birds that know that they are ripe now.. this year most of the birds liked them raw and were attacking the tree late in May when they were just pale pink….
It started to rain small drops that felt refreshing and cool, and then suddenly a hard shower that sent me scurrying inside like a frightened mouse… then the thunder started far away in the distance… calling, calling for everyone to run and hide but I did not want to run away from the garden, I wanted to wander still and look out at the balloon flowers and the masses of larkspur like a frightening blue sky frightening because it is so blue so beautiful like a fragment of someone’s dream. The larkspur is next to a day lily called Big Smile that my friend Madeline gave to me almost a decade ago.. my darling friend Madeline who recently died so suddenly, so unexpectedly, like this summer shower….
Oh Madeline how I miss you now, and think about your breathless voice that always sounded a little like Marilyn Monroe when she was singing Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy… maybe from all that walking and hiking and gardening and chopping and pruning and planting that you did in that garden far away from mine… your tall, slender figure, that mop of ice blonde hair and your dark lobelia eyes…..you always had rosy cheeks like the Wisconsin girls in the state fairs, you always looked so fresh and milky clean and smooth… telling me to be calm and not fret and worry and just sit in my little garden and look at Big Smile and now the big smile is you and the larkspur has jumped from the gravel walk and grown into a magic pool of blue bluer than the color blue, dancing in the sunlight and treading into lavender, purple, lilac and sometimes even black that black hole of nothingness and everythingness… oh Madeline sometimes I think I feel you smiling down from the summer skies…
The thunder kept on but I stayed in the garden not afraid of thunder or lightning, not afraid of anything at all….
The thunder sounded friendly, the thunder sounded happy, the thunder was a slightly roaring king, his throaty steel grey sky happiness telling me it’s fine this one day to wander in his garden and walk in the rain and get soaking wet and shriveled up and wrinkled and totally disheveled and disarrayed…after all… thunder in the garden… if you die in the garden struck by lightning or get hit in the head by the roar of thunder’s call, what a way to go, falling down onto the wet ground smelling the watermelon grass, staining your cheeks with the purple berries turning into wine, and landing, maybe, near the pool of larkspur and Madeline’s Big Smile…