Garden in the Woods
Some years ago I discovered a clearing in the woods behind our house. The tall oaks formed almost a perfect circle around a large bare spot. I had walked back there on the anniversary of my mother’s death, still grieving.
I decided then to plant a garden, one I knew she would love if she were alive to see it.
My husband and I surrounded the bare area with logs cut from fallen trees. I did my research and found that I not only needed shade plants but that they also should be deer resistant. So that fall I planted groups of daffodils, ferns, lenten roses, and astilbes.
A path wends its way through one section. A dry creek bed runs through another section for drainage. An old garden urn holds caladiums—with their big heart-shaped leaves and wonderful color combinations of white, pink, and green—from late spring to fall.
Over the years I’ve experimented with Virginia blue bells, bleeding hearts, brunneras, pulmonarias, and lamiums (they are all doing great). I even experimented with coral bells (the deer grew to love them, so they never grew back), alliums, and primroses.
It is a small treasure in the shade. It is my sanctuary.
My husband calls it the circle
I call it the secret garden
Because it is
Where I commune with my secret, sacred self
Where I hear my mother’s voice
In the breeze brushing by the leaves on the trees
In chittering, scampering squirrels
Where I pause to listen
Where I am renewed
I’ve learned a lot from gardening. Things like forgiveness, redemption, patience, and connectedness. I remember the day it all came together for me, all the pieces clicked into place. I felt the earth between my fingers and had a great awakening.
I wrote those words recently in response to a prompt from a fellow writer on Substack. He thought it could be the background for an essay or poem. I didn’t tell him then that it is already the background for almost everything I write.
Our woods also has a small pond at one end that does not belong to us but gives birth to small frogs, toads, and salamanders that find their way into our yard. At eventide they put on a musical show with their calls and peeps.
These two passages from the recently published memoir of the composer Tina Davidson touched me, deeply.
Let your heart be broken. Allow, expect, look forward to. The life that you have so carefully protected and cared for. Broken, cracked, rent in two. Heartbreakingly, your heart breaks, and in the two halves, rocking on the table, is revealed rich earth. Moist, dark soil, ready for new life to begin.
The past presses on the present with staggering consistency. Nothing is separate or fresh, always an afterimage. The slow time-lapse photograph catches the multi-image movement of our lives. Danger lurks in every corner. To reconstruct will challenge perceptions of self, to restore will allow old pain to well up.
The price of forgotten memories, however, is more costly. My puppeteer of darkness is cruel. He perpetuates false beliefs and forces reenactments I cannot control.
The miracle is light. The miracle is that we rise again out of suffering. The miracle is the persistence of the soul to find itself, to look hard into the darkness, reach back, and grasp remnants of ourselves. The miracle is that we create ourselves anew.
—Tina Davidson, Let Your Heart Be Broken: Life and Music from a Classical Composer.
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