By Julie Carpenter
To all the messy gardens I pass, the ones where the forsythia and quince have twisted around each other like jealous lovers who can’t let go, where the grass and daffodils have tangled themselves into a standoff, barely domesticated versus natural, at the base of dogwoods and fruit trees. To the little white farm house where the Carolina Jessamine is trying to pull off the garage door and crawl inside. To the one where the wheelbarrow is melting into rust at the back of the vegetable garden, abandoned in front of the blackberries, the old shovel swallowed by fugitive dill and basil. To the garden where the sweetheart rose has covered the privet and together they form a warren of caves, a fortress for a city of rabbits. To all these gardens, you have my love.
There’s something about the half-gone garden, the dreamy absentminded overgrowth, the mouldering restfulness, the way the vegetation eats away the hard lines of the sidewalks and driveways, the corners of sheds and houses that makes me want to crawl into them, into the rabbit tunnels, to lay on the soft green carpets of overgrown grass, to become small. There’s something dreamlike about the garden that’s halfway between domesticated and natural, fleabane, moss and dandelions creeping back in, waiting to see if they’re welcome, that makes me want to become a chipmunk or a rabbit in a Beatrix Potter book. Something that a fully domesticated garden can’t evoke.
I’m not sure what there is about the creeping moss and decay that fills me with odd longing. Such gardens are not destinations, they’re doorways into something half-wild, half-cozy, some sort of afterlife fantasy that’s hidden away at the bottom of my brain. As much as I fight the death of my own garden, I find it oddly appealing to watch nature eat someone else’s.
So, hats off to neglect and the ravages of time and encroaching nature. The beauty of it a comfort, the destination one I certainly share.