The Fog Town School of Thought
by MAURICE MANNING
They should have taught us birds and trees
in school, they should have taught us beauty
and weaving bees and had a class
on listening and standing alone—
the children should have studied light
reflected from a spider web,
we should have learned the branches of streams
spread out like fingers or the veins
of a leaf—we should have learned the sky
is the tallest steeple, we should have known
a hill is a voice inside the sky—
O, we should have had our school
on top and stayed until the night
for the fog to bloom in the hollows and rise
like cotton spinning off a wheel—
we should have learned a dream—a child’s
and even still a man’s—is made
from fog and love, my word, you’d think
with the book in front of us we should
have learned how Fog Town got its name.
Source: Orion Magazine
"Describe your fantasy garden."
"This exercise has nothing to do with how much money you have, where you live now, or real life. It's pure fantasy. This is the garden you would make if you could do ANYTHING."
Oh yes, day-dreaming about my fantasy garden has been easy, pleasant and hard to stop. But writing my response? That was a lot harder to start and even now, nearly impossible to finish. Well, that's not quite true.
During the past six weeks I've jotted down notes in a blog post and kept them unpublished. But now that the peas have now been trained to climb up their teepees, the various seedlings have been potted up or planted out, and the front entrance at the community garden has been thoroughly weeded, I can find no more excuses to put off polishing and publishing my response to Gayla's second prompt.
However, it's so far past the deadline I'll totally understand if no one reads it or I don't get full marks on this assignment ;-). On the other hand, I believe I've finally written the truest and most complete description of the garden I would begin creating today from the bare ground up and down.
Most important, my dream garden will nurture nature, sustainably and organically.
My dream garden will have:
- diverse and abundant pollinators and beneficial insects;
- nutrient-rich, organic soil with a high earthworm count;
- a colourful, tasty, nourishing, three-to-four season kitchen garden with vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, berries and fruit trees (my dream includes being in Zone 8 or higher);
- sweet peas for colour, fragrance and memories;
- a Japanese-style shade garden for meditation and reading;
- a naturescape perimeter;
- a stream or river within walking distance (but not so close that I would worry about flooding),
- a view of the mountains to enjoy when my body needs a rest from the heavy work;
- a compost bin, rain barrel, greenhouse, coldframe, nursery bed & small tool shed. Yes, it may be boring to dream about the garden's "infrastructure", but I struggle to fit these functional areas, if not actual items, on my small balcony, in my office and in my storage locker. I yearn for more elegant and spacious solutions.
This dream garden list is shorter than I thought it would be, especially with no limits on my imagination or desires. But it is long enough for me. At this time in my life, I don't fantasize as much about my dream garden as I do about dream gardening: being in flow and at peace in a green space, feeling connected to the soil, the flora and fauna, and the seasons...and having more time and space for it all.
For almost 2 weeks now -- ever since I read Gayla's writing prompt -- I'd been wanting to respond to it. But I had my doubts, and still do. Am I recalling the distant memory of my first plant? Or am I remembering a childhood dream? Most of the details -- except colour, location & the identity of the person kneeling beside me -- are vague and dream-like. Yet, I've replayed the scene in my mind many times over the years and can't shake it (much like an earworm). And since the second writing prompt is coming tomorrow, I'll stop procrastinating and tell my very short story now.
Yellow flowers in an old, white-painted tractor tire next to the garage: these were my first plants. I think I was about 4 or 5 years old. The memory (or dream) has a definite pre-school feeling to it. I was proud to be allowed to help Mom with a grown-up task. We carefully placed the flowers with the cheerful faces in the holes we had created with our trowels, then firmed soil over the roots. "Pansies," Mom said in response to my question.
After that mother-daughter gardening session, I don't recall helping with daily watering or weeding so those particular pansies may have been under my care only momentarily. But other versions of them as well as violas have been regularly appearing in gardens I've tended over the years.
When I inherited my community plot in Spring 2011, it was badly overgrown and tangled with weeds and neglected plants. I removed everything, except these yellow pansies, which cheerfully welcomed me to my new garden home and connected me with my first (remembered) plant.
After typing the final period and now just before hitting publish, I will say again I don't know if this is memory or dream...but perhaps it doesn't matter.