Lockdown meant lots of time on my hands. How should I make good use of these extra hours? I looked out my south-facing window and saw the same view that I’d been seeing for the past ten Junes. The hill that sloped steeply westward now overgrown with grass that came up to my chin, two very tall black walnut trees midway down the hill with lush green canopy way up high, and a few straggly cedar trees at the bottom of the hill that were really cute against the east fence when they were little but now urgently needed trimming.
Hmm. If I were to un-straggle those cedars, what kind of new view could I create? No longer young and strong as I was when I bought this place, I tried to think of someone who might like a little yard work. No one. A few days later while driving downtown I happened to see a young man whom I’d met at a local dinner. Maybe? I sent a Facebook note. He responded with a yes!
Curly black hair tinged with gray, tall and slim, Rohan arrived with a new pair of work gloves one evening after work. A visitor! A rather rare happening in this time of pandemic. With snippers and saw we cut back about half the cedars at the east fence and all the ones on the south fence. That corner began to look spacious. We pulled dirt from the hill to level off the ground against both fences thus giving beds for … shrubs? Flowers? Vines? Birdbath? Endless possibilities! We stood back and admired the space we were creating.
We knew we should be working at a distance, six feet. But when sawing big pieces of trunk, it helped him when I stood on the other end to stabilize them. When I was walking down the four steps to the garden, as we now called the new space, sometimes he was coming up. I’d have to say we were a little too casual.
Let’s talk about pay, I said.
No, no, he said, I just want to help.
But, I said …
No, he said.
Well, we’d work something out.
I made a trip up to Baltimore Garden Nurseries to make my choices. Two viburnum shrubs not in bloom, a clematis not in bloom, and a yarrow not in bloom. For bloomin’ colour I picked up a plant that had several bright purple flowers. I didn’t even know what it was. Didn’t care. Rushed it home (with the others), dug a hole, added water and composted manure, put in the plant. Now the space looked like a garden. Flowers in time of pandemic. A little revolution in the midst of this other revolution going on, the one that tells us we are all interdependent.
My sister came the next day to see my pandemic garden and said she liked my petunias.
There, those purple flowers.
Really? They’re petunias?
Yes, dear. She said in the tone of voice she uses when she thinks I’m an idiot.
Rohan came over a few more times. Then there was a message from him. He couldn’t come over again for a while because he’d been in close contact at work with a co-worker who was being tested for the virus. I replied that if his co-worker was positive, he, Rohan, would need to be tested, and me too. He said he was sure we would be fine because some time had elapsed before the contact. He’d let me know on Tuesday. Today is Tuesday. Of course there is next to no chance it will be positive … on the other hand, Covid-19 is still finding bodies to inhabit …
In the meantime, the revolutionary petunias shout freedom in my backyard and bloom on in flamboyant disregard of the virus. I can almost hear the joy.