|Photo credit by Kumico Kim|
The Autumn garden stroll has begun. I put on my tall water-proof boots alive with color, and head out in the early morning. The dew is thick as I saunter through the gardens. This walk is different from the spring and summer walks, it is the beginning of the ending garden walks.
Colors of gold, burgundy, and deep orange are now the norm as I go from bed to bed. Chrysanthemums are rich in foliage and fill the vases in my house as well as the garden perfuming each inch of this old house. The summer sunflowers are heavy with seeds and are already in use by the blue jays.
The potatoes have long been ready, yet wait for my gardener’s spade to pull them up. Perhaps today as my curiosity cannot wait any longer to see how well they grew down under the ground.
The grass is littered with leaves from the old maple tree, which is the crowning jewel of my backyard. Soon I will pull out the rake and put those rich jewels onto the tops of my flower and garden beds. I only wish we could still burn leaves as my sensory memory aches for the smell of burning leaves. Hopefully a drive through the country will satisfy that on a late fall afternoon.
It is chilly. Not cold enough for the heat to come on, but that chilly refreshing feel of adding an extra blanket and the flannel sheets. Soon that will be the case. As for now, I add an extra sweatshirt and put the kettle on. With cup in hand, my love for gardens extends cross the miles and I remember other gardens. My grandma’s gardens rich in flowers and raspberries and acres of green beans. My own farm garden with rich land and space to plant anything and everything, and I did. However, on this morning I am remembering another garden.
I arrived early. My arrival time was to be 9:00 a.m., but the taxi was quicker than I thought and I found myself wandering around at 8:30 in the morning. There were small lights on inside the house, but I simply sat on the front porch. I remember being chilly as we were deep into the heart of Autumn so I decided to take a stroll through the dew-filled gardens. They were similar to mine…chrysanthemums, marigolds, asters. By 9:00 I was back at the house and I promptly knocked. I was expected. I was invited. The door opened wide and two women opened the door. I stepped over the threshold and burst into tears. This was no ordinary house. This was no ordinary garden. It was the home of Emily Dickinson in the heart of Amherst, Massachusetts.
I was not there because someone had sent me or I was preparing a research paper, but I was there because I had to be there. The women were a bit surprised by my outburst of tears, but told me it does happen occasionally.
This lovely day did not happen without great research, however. I spent over two years reading all of her poetry, reading everything she read, and reading as much as I could about her! (This is how I do all my own research!) Therefore, I was prepared with questions and possibilities. The docents let me lower her basket out of her bedroom window. The basket that once held gingerbread for the neighborhood children. They would reward her in return with small notes and flowers. They let me sit up on the landing where Emily sat watching and listening to company when she did not go downstairs. I sat on the same stoop, but the docents said they could see me. I was confused. Emily said no one could see her. Then we realized the house had been electrified, and with the lights out, I was invisible.
I followed the pathway of her coffin down the hallway, out the back door, into the alley, and into the graveyard. I knelt by her tombstone that simply says, “Called Back.”
One last stroll through the gardens with the part time gardener. He told me about great plans to resurrect her orchard and other newly discovered flowers. He leaned again the hoe on that late day in Autumn reciting poetry to me.
“Besides the autumn poets sing
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the Haze.”
Yes, indeed, it is Autumn in your garden, and in mine.
(This column was first published in last week's KPC.)