A gardener also is an excavator. Taking over a bed from someone else offers opportunity for sleuthing and discovery. In The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox and her uncle's young gardener, Dickon, take delight when they find a rose that is "wick" and together they resurrect a hidden garden that was abandoned (and forbidden) after Mary's Aunt Lily died. When I dug a garden in the back yard of a rental house in North Carolina, many broken glass bottles made clear that I'd discovered a trash pile. As a result, I invested an hour of digging and sifting for each square foot of garden space -- a well-deserved break from studying my law school assignments.
"That's a break?" says Virginia. "Most people would say you went from work to more work."
This probably illustrates why some people are suited to gardening and others aren't, which reminds me of the slogan on one of the coffee cups in our kitchen -- "Do what you like. Like what you do."
All right, some people would call the repetitive tasks of gardening "mind-numbing," but yesterday something happened that I'd bet almost everyone would find exciting. I wish I could plan it to happen soon after someone took up a hoe for the first time.
It's the sort of thing that occurs most often when I'm digging a new garden bed, or working in a recently dug spot. Yesterday I was hoeing the fifth-acre plot recently plowed by the fellow who cuts the hay in our field.
Whenever I find one of these, the airplanes, cars, roads and power lines temporarily disappear. American chestnut trees tower around the clearing I'm turning into a garden. As I kneel to inspect the carved stone, I wonder how many thousands of years ago a native American let this piece fly from a bow and whether it struck its target.
"Cool," says Virginia. "That one's perfect. How many others have you found?"
"A handful," I say, "counting another perfect gray stone and other broken pieces I found when I was one of Suter's Hoers, back in the late 1960s. I uncovered 7 or 8 while digging the garden beds at this house, including one last year while some friends were visiting. When I said, 'look what I found,' they thought I was kidding."
"I'll keep my eyes open from now on," says Virginia.
Keeping it simple
5 days ago