My former cat Pete, now living on sixty acres of upland valley paradise, seemed always to get it right: play with abandon, climb any trees willing, keep neurotics at bay (oh, what an arsenal of weapons Pete had for keeping clear boundaries), lose toes, lose fights, win dominance in your own pacific home. For all his crusty bossy masculine ways, Pete was a full-on lover.
Now, I live in high-density housing, where you could toss four different neighbors hot dog buns off the back deck if they called for ‘em. We are packed in tight. Rather than stay inside or drive to a park, I looked out all my windows and called up beauty. Wherefore art thou? I asked, from the balcony. I am astonished to report that even in a backyard skinny as two beans laid like an L, beauty came.
First, you trim the lilacs struggling in too much shade. You transplant strawberries and a shade-bound climbing rose against a sunny fence. Cover them with shade-giving cardboard for three weeks until new leaves emerge, and they sparkle. Cut curving bed lines and whack out sod, an hour or two each morning. Hang a bird feeder. Sink a used post to support the new grape vine.
Use the gravel under the deck to start a pathway. Make borders with hand-sized rocks. Move the hummingbird feeder three times, without luck, till you tie on a lucid red ribbon, then watch from the balcony as the lightning birds feed.
When you love your soil, love your views, love your neighbors’ sumac trees’ exotic foliage, dream of eggplants warm with sun, dream of iris, dream of songbirds, you are Pete, who grabs every moment out of doors and shakes it, until all the good falls out.
If you are too young yet to love gardens, grow old.