Where bold sun once beat down on hard dirt and where fresh lavender stalks pushed purple blooms toward our bright star, here we planted a tree in honor of his birth. I kneel in its dappled shade, hands coated in black soil. The sheltering arms of his skyline honey locust touch our high roofline now. Its long, brown seed pods litter the ground every summer. In the dappled shade of its yellow leaves, I seek patches of sunlit ground for pollinator plants.
This flower bed is supported by a rough line of heavy mountain stones, white and gray-veined chunks with sharp, angled corners. From the crook of one stone’s elbow, I lift a small gray rock and rest it smooth and flat against the palm of my hand. Too small to hold back dirt, too warm and smooth to throw away.
How is any rock much different from the smaller specks that clump together to make dirt? How different from molecules of air, for that matter? We move through gas particles. We inhale and exhale every day.
I need this garden like air. Its beds surround the place where I planted my adulthood, where I pulled toddlers’ jackets tight against the wind. In this yard, we turned rocks upside down to see rollie-poly bugs, to marvel at worms and centipedes. We strolled the block to gather red maple and oak leaves, then we ironed them between sheets of wax paper. Day after bright, shining day.
My hands, so much like my mother’s now, have lifted and turned this soil for thirty-three years. These palms once cradled three infants in turn, held close the start of three lifetimes. One life nearly cut short by despair and a handful of pills.
Still breathing. Still breathing. Still here. Bee balm. Astagache. Butterfly bush. All compete with weed after weed after weed. I will work this flower bed, mixing compost into clay, planting everything bright thing I can. Until the snow flies, until bitter cold casts mist from my mouth, then, when spring lures colors from these tender plants, I will kneel down once more.