Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me and the Garden -- 2015

It's my annual navel gazing day. The garden is 8 and I am, well, much older than it. I want to start with an excerpt from my unpublished memoir, Turkey Red, which I rediscovered this week, then share pics (in collage format to save space -- click on them to embiggen):

There’s an emptiness in the Plains. It’s not a literal emptiness because it is our absence which is most present. And yet our existence has redefined the absence: you can get lost in a corn field, lay down in the wheat and just vanish—no one will ever find you.

It’s a dangerous thing being lost to the horizon. Walking any open field we are both compass point and sun dial, searching for home in the time allotted us on this earth. At most we will discover that while alive we’re as ethereal as a memory. Cross paths with a mountain lion or sandhill crane or butterfly or prairie dog and we will know the silence we carry inside, the silence we insist upon field after field. There’s nothing here because we made it so. Our absence is present in the rows stretching to infinity off the highways and county roads.

But stop. A dung beetle is moving from shadow to shadow underneath the sunflowers, pushing its brown marble over pebbles, past cracks, and through thick brush. When I was a kid I’d sit near an ant hill—the inverse funnel pushing out ants like a great heart pumping blood. Each body scatters in every direction, following the marked trails out beyond the center of their lives. Can you imagine being an ant or a dung beetle? Can you imagine? You have never been anything else, following the narrow path laid out for you, but pushing your burdens before you like they were the only treasure you’d ever had. When we enter the earth from another perspective we become our truest selves—we give up the right to take away other lives and enter into an unwritten contract that we signed at our births. We are here, made of the same stuff as everything else. We are here for only a moment, too, already absent in our presence until we go mad with the terror of our short lives and break the contract. The only way to rewrite ourselves is to walk the horizon until the prairie comes back. 


Dawn said...

Happy birthday to you and your beautiful prairie garden!

Avid Gardener said...

Benjamin: Your garden, your zest, your stay with-it-ness, your frequent reminders, your compassion, your intensity... we need them to keep us reminded. I am trying in my new garden... I may be where you were when you started only six months into my "mostly" native, trying to be locally sourced native... garden... having you there holding our feet to the fire is what we need... even when it seems you are fanatical and we ordinary souls can't keep up or be that good at it... know that we look up to you. We appreciate you. We can only hope that our efforts result in a garden as beautiful, hopeful and helpful as yours.

Happy Birthday.


Gail Spratley said...

Thank you for being you, for sharing your knowledge and experience, Though I don't often remark or comment, I always appreciate reading your articles and posts. You are for me and I think for many a deep pool of understanding, I can sink into the surrounding, supportying, quenching waters of your work, and feel relief and gratitude that someone entirely gets it. Happy birthday, Benjamin.

Benjamin Vogt said...

I really needed these comments. It often feels like I'm talking to the void, and it often feels like I hit nothing but stone walls that are very angry and think I'm nuts. It's hard to stay the course and push for something unseen, unknown, and perhaps unattainable -- but that's how we grow (what's that line about reaching and grasping?).

Diana Studer said...

Happy birthday!
I take some inspiration from you as I work at turning my commonorgarden to supporting our biodiversity. Nectar for the sunbirds is the low hanging fruit.

Drew Watts said...

I just loved your garden and I am very close to nature so, I just love such laces. I am planning for a small party and thinking of hiring same garden or lake side party places in the Bronx. Can you please suggest me something?

Wendy Henrichs said...

You're one of my heroes. Thank you for speaking for wildlife and encouraging all of us in such a beautiful way - both visually and lyrically. I wish I had 80 acres to turn over to you for the good of all. Keep going! :)