I have recently begun writing on Medium. Today I have published a piece about the garden, and what it is like to be a caretaker of Eden when global warming turns everything upside down. Here is an excerpt, with new artwork done in homage to the magnolia. I hope you will visit Medium to read the entire essay and share with friends, gardeners, and anyone looking for ways to think about living in this time of drastic change.
What is resilience? This is the question I ask myself hourly in the summer the West is on fire.
It is August. Poppies and cosmos intermingle, their ungainly stalks eye-high and lassooed with string. The distance shimmers in incense. The air is thick, and sound travels and bends slowly around corners. Even airplanes seem different, with the lazy small propeller sounds of a slower century. August defies the laws of breathing. You can exhale and stay there, moving neither forward nor back. Look at the dogs, and the lawn, indistinguishably golden and bleached, panting, lolling, wordless. Be like them. Walk barefoot into the garden at dawn in a long white dress and feel the stubble against your toes. There will be only one cool moment before evening and it is now.
I stand for hours with the garden hose, saving what trees I can before rationing begins. The ground dampens quickly but after months of heat I am no longer fooled. I can sink my fingers into the dirt and know it will be bone dry. When dirt changes character and no longer knows how to receive, the scientists call it hydrophobic. The garden hose and watering can, these symbols of all things fecund and generous and regenerative, have met their match.
The loudest sound in the garden is magnolia leaves. When they fall they clatter against the stacks gathered at the trunk. But as the lower leaves drop and the center becomes bare the crowns explode in feverish new growth and blossoms. I ask the nursery, and they say what nursery people always do: It’s too much water. Or not enough water. Or too much fertilizer or . . . not enough fertilizer. My favorite answer is “They are getting rid of the leaves because they don’t need them.”
If I were a magnolia I would want to keep all my leaves whether I needed them or not. I would want to be as beautiful as a grove in a Persian miniature. I scrape leaves into sacks already filled with what I have ripped out, what no amount of water will save from the heat: day lilies, creeping jenny, crocosmia lucifer, fragile fern, pale green hosta, the hellebore that laid down and never got up. What remains has deep roots, few needs.
A note on the artwork: I will be showing as part of Seattle Sampling in November, and am developing some new mixed media ideas on plaster. Stay tuned to see how this evolves. It’s very exciting to try a new and messy technique, blending digital imaging, surface, paint, lots of rags, buckets, doing and redoing.
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