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At peace with the garden

This garden may not be ready to grace the cover of a magazine, but it provides joy and understanding.

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When I moved from Boston to the Connecticut suburbs, I longed for a patch of land I could sink my hands into, a place where I could sit and ponder life and achieve some sort of Zen existence.

The Buddha claimed to achieve enlightenment while under a Bodhi tree near the Ganges River. Maybe I could do the same under a silver maple near the Connecticut River. I started to dream – and to plan.

My new yard cried out for gardens. So did I. I conjured up ways to revive the stale landscape. Sunflowers would go here, lilacs there.

I would revive the empty dirt rectangle into a thriving vegetable plot. I’d put a hammock between those trees, a bird feeder under that one. A customized sanctuary. It would be very Zen.

I consulted gardening books and websites and thought about the major aspects of horticulture. My driveway became a circus of pots filled with perennials, herbs, and vegetables. I couldn’t help myself. Most of the plants died before I got them in the ground.

I decided to stop planning and start acting.

The first weeks of the season I devoted to the not-so-empty dirt rectangle. I excavated glass, fish bones, and broken pots. Matted roots choked the soil. I thought I would never start planting. I eschewed the desire to drop my shovel and head to the beach and eventually saw results.

I grew a lot of things that summer, mostly grass – barnyard grass, crab grass, and creeping Charlie. I spent hours weeding each day, and every night while I slept, they returned. An unruly jungle of weeds and grass towered over everything. Was this supposed to be relaxing? I wondered when I would get to use that hammock.

As summer progressed, zucchini and tomatoes poked through the overgrowth and they tasted mighty fresh. Comparing the hours worked to the vegetables harvested, I figured they cost me about $20 per pound.

I vowed that next year would be different – the flowers blooming, the vegetables prolific. Then I would sit back and reap the benefits. Then I would understand.

The next spring, I prepped the garden better than before. I dug up roots, tilled, and spread manure. Things were off to a delicious start.

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