Updated: Feb 22, 2020
I just came in from snipping the bodies of tulips. The ones blooming are creamy yellow streaked with red flames. One of my neighbors coming back from the cleaners, her arms full of clothes, said, “I wanted to tell you your tulips are just beautiful.”
“Thanks,” I said. I was shoving ferns I’d dug up from my mother’s yard in Vermont years ago into a pot by the front door. “It’s like a garden walking through here,” she said, as she moved down the sidewalk past the raised bed along the side of the house. When I got back inside I started to think about the idea of the garden. How for me the raised bed is a garden. For my neighbor, it’s just a place where I grow tulips in the spring and lilies later. I know that the garden shop where I buy plants takes care of her garden. She has the luxury of a big backyard with a pergola.
Yes, I’m jealous. I went out to the garden filled with things that were bothering me. I have a teenager, after all, and after an hour or two came back inside refreshed. It smells like rain, clean and cool and the plants are popping up, wedging themselves between the first set of tulips. The garden’s been blooming since February. I sniped off the spent blooms of grape hyacinth and noticed alliums poking their tiny blooms between the skinny leaves.
“I have a city garden, too,” a guy who’s been working on a house down the block said. “But I grow vegetables.”
“I tried that, but I had little black rats,” I said.
“Oh, we had rats, too,” he said, as he unlocked his trailer. “They tunneled under the raised beds.”
“I bet you have a big yard,” I said, and grimaced, jealous all over again. “Not so big.”
But it seems big to me as he shows me how it stretches from the front of my house to the back. “That’s big,” I said.
I’ve been reading about Japan. I’m obsessed with stories of hidden mountains and flat green rice paddies glowing against the horizon. I’m not sure what’s real there. Several writers tell me that people in Japan can see only what they want to see in the landscape. The cherry tree against a white sky and not the concrete pilings in the distance. The ancient fir tree bent at the edge of the garden and not the Pachinko Parlor. They frame the view with their spirit. I suppose that’s what I do here. My garden is as big as Versailles. My growing lilies stretch out for miles.