This is not about poetry or walking. It is about my springtime obsession: GARDENING. I know I have to find a May poem, but until I do . . .
I have been away from my garden for three weeks. This sounds like the beginning of confession akin to those I made when I was in grammar school
Father forgive me as it has been three weeks since I tended my garden
It was not because I was neglectful, I was in India, and as excuses go that ranks fairly high. It is not commuting distance The Ganges to Germantown for weeding and lilac trimming. Or Calcutta to the crocus patch. I was on a far-flung trip to see the sites of the subcontinent and to volunteer at amazing schools and hospital programs.
But as soon as I was back, once I could muster staying awake in this time zone, all I wanted was my garden, my dirt, my flowers, my birds. Where had that wonderful Indian sense of calm gone? Oh I felt I had it as far as a great diminution in my anger levels, but my passions were unabated. I wanted to be in my earth, in the crisp still real spring weather. When I left New Delhi is was 109 degrees and I returned to NYC and the Hudson Valley with temperature in the 40’s. A huge swing, but a welcome one as it meant my flowers would still be blowing on the hillside.
I worked the week, writing and meeting, but sleep walking through much of it due to jet lag, but also the tug I felt from my land. I needed to see what was left of the magnolia trees, did the splints help? Were the lilacs in bloom, did the deer eat all of them? And did any tulips come back after the disastrous early mowing done last spring by a neighbor eager to help with my “messy looking” lawn? In short, three weeks away from a spring garden can be a great scavenger hunt, a wonderful opening of a long awaited gift.
So as we drove north from NYC to the Hudson Valley through two different growing zones I was scanning the roadside and yards to see what was in bloom. I am a color gardener; I can see purples and fuchsia and tiny yellows. I cannot always tell you who is who, and what is what. I am not as bad as my husband who revels I the fact that after five years he knows forsythia.
When we pulled into the drive of our little house there was the crab apple tree in full display, her arms outstretched laden with blossoms. It reminded me of the elegant Bishnois women in the Great Thar Desert who are festooned in color and texture traversing a sandy background. There was my tree waving at me.
And unlike India, the back ground for this beauty was a deep green carpet studded with regal purple patches, huge swaths really of bugle weed which I encourage and move every year. My goal is to finally have a totally purple lawn from mid-April to end May. I don’t mow and it undulates. The lilacs, which ring the porch, reflect a lighter lavender hue and the red maples, with their burgundy foliage mark a poignant place in the midst of this purple sea.
It all happened quite by accident, By Guess and By Golly as my mother used to call her cooking and gardening.
The gardener looks as what is growing and you either rip it out, or you encourage it. It is that simple. Well I noticed that we had bugleweed, dark and light purple spiky flowers growing amidst our grass. And so I stopped doing an early mow of the front lawn and lo and behold we had this intricate carpet of purple and green. There were random shapes and dispersions that would take a painter’s breath away. A sort of Rothko lawn. And now when I dig up the dandelions, I move in a clump of bugleweed. And the carpet spreads and spreads.
Now it is awe-inspiring. In early morning it is a gray green lawn and flatter purple. It morphs by dusk to bright vermillion and lush vestment purple. It is like my children, when I do not see them for a while, I am stunned by how beautiful and radiant they are. How wonderful.
When we first bought this house, five years ago, I had a little extra money, remember those days, and I bought 1000 random daffodil bulbs and tossed them all over my lawn back and front. And now they pop up yellow headed or creamy inside the purple carpet and they sway in the breeze. The fragrance from the lilacs fills the air and sitting on the porch, reading, doing a cross word puzzle, drinking a glass of wine; I can think of no place I would rather be.
When I sat on my private balcony at the Umaid Bhawan Palace, and looked at the acres of manicured bougainvillea I thought of my own small castle and yearned for it. Now I am home and my imagined return is no less dramatic and marvelous than the morning coffee in Rajasthan.
The joy of travel is that is opens one’s mind and pushes out the boundaries we too carefully build in fearful modern times. But a hoped for joy, is that when we return home we are all Dorothy and we click our heels and squeal: There’s no place like home!
Especially if you have a purple lawn.