Nothing but green in the garden now, if you don’t count the sleek black and white ducks asleep beneath the collards. I am relieved when they curl into a downy patchwork quilt there. In my mind they are safe and unseen from both land and sky. They seem comfortable hidden under thick wide leaves, stretched out in the rich, damp soil.
Having spent some time in Texas recently, I grew accustomed to sky, giant clouds, sunsets. Now I know what visitors to our mountains mean when they say, “Everything is so close.” I feel a bit claustrophobic on my porch where two great maples join limbs and hold leafy hands overhead in our front yard. They reach toward the roof and mix it up with the small red maple below them. When I left for Dallas, the Blacks had not been fully leafed. Now the parkway views puff with giants rounded by twenty shades of green.
In the garden, the lacy hair of carrots droops and drags the ground like willow trees while peas rise into a tangled mass of green. Tomatoes hug their stakes, form hard little balls that have yet to ripen into red, orange, or yellow juiciness. Strawberries, picked, eaten or frozen, leave green and brown patches of ragged leaves in an unmade bed. Asparagus waves from stringed captivity and long, dark stalks of garlic begin to curl but are not quite ready to be unearthed. Even our five apple trees groan beneath the weight of apples much too green to eat.
I admit, summer has never been my favorite season. When I was a teen, I spent June, July, and August lifeguarding long, blue pools of cool from daylight until after dark. I fled to those oasis as soon as I could, running from my mother’s garden which burst with life in the surly Mississippi humidity. I see us together still, she demonstrating repeatedly how to “get the root out” and make sure we shook the clinging clods back into the bed–as if somewhere in that rich Southern soil there might be a deficit of dirt. It was a jungle, green and fecund, itchy to every inch of my fair, sensitive skin.
I know I need all this green to breathe and shade me, it’s true. I am not an ocean, plains, or desert person. But like words, the thick woods and clusters of leaves can become claustrophobic. There must be more Texan in me than I thought. I dream of wide open spaces with nothing to confuse the line of sight or to hide behind; where the pitfalls are obvious and the snake is visible coiled beside the path. Unfortunately, a lot of open spaces also boast a burning sun, with quickening breezes more like a blast from an open oven with no green to filter and cool.
My wordless mind remains stuffed with images I can’t separate into ideas, dreams I can’t see for all the thick life around me. I pretend I am weeding out what is useless, pray that what I pile into the compost wasn’t something I needed. I feel lost in all this green, needing a clear, deep pool in which to baptize myself anew. I know grief is like this; disorderly, chaotic, claustrophobic. I need to, but would rather not, write it out. Metaphor is as close as I can come to the real thing.
Perhaps I simply need to reconcile myself with the knowledge that what dies creates all this new growth. If only there was a collard large enough for me to curl beneath; where I could fall asleep beside the ducks, in the moist earth with the smell of iron and musty leaf rising in my nostrils, healing me back to ground again.