To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
So it goes (to quote another great author, Vonnegut). Put an English professor in the garden and when he sees the twisting tendril of an Acoma Pueblo Rattle Gourd, his first reaction may well be to recite these lines from Shakespeare's most famous soliloquy.
And since I'm no great master of photography, the image is slightly unfocused, perhaps like any contemplation of life and death. But in the garden right now, on this last day of June, all is fecundity, growth, and fruition. That is, in fact, why the mind gazes across the wheel to the other side. Every plant in the garden is energized to the task at hand: to bear fruit that assures the next cycling of life, and the next.
Fortunately for us, that fruit is delicious to eat.
These are the first chili peppers of the summer season, and they are indeed welcome. This variety, Wenk's Yellow Hot, will smarten up a homemade pizza later today. I'm cultivating ten varieties and have more than 20 plants. Yes. Yes, that is a bit over the top. But chilis grow so well on the Front Range of Colorado, it's a shame not to indulge in them. Not a single one will go to waste; all my friends will be supplied.
I continue to measure the impact of the greenhouse we built this spring. Never before have I had tomatoes blush before July but this year, the early starts I transplanted into the garden are already heavy with fruit and beginning to ripen.
This is my new favorite tomato, the Stupice variety, sent to the US from the former Czechoslovakia by Milan Sodomka. I ordered these from Seed Saver's Exchange, a fantastic outfit in Decorah, Iowa. Everything I've purchased from them has been outstanding—and that's a majority of my garden plants this year. This plant was started on 3/19 and transplanted 5/13; so that's a near-ripe tomato 48 days from transplant. Granted, this fruit needs another week to sweeten up so we'll add that to the total to make 55 days from transplant. I check the seed packet and it reads:
Compact plants with potato leaf foliage loaded with clusters of 2" fruits. Quite early, great flavor. Heavy yields all season. Produces well in northern climates. Indeterminate, 55-70 days from transplant.
Right on schedule, then.
It's hard to convey the deep pleasure and satisfaction I've taken in this year's garden, and we still have a long way to go. Though the lettuces, peas, and herbs have supplied our table almost daily for the last month, the first two are mostly spent. Even as they give out, the peppers and tomatoes are coming in. Soon we'll have pole beans, cucumbers, and eggplant. And of course, all eyes are on the "3 Sisters" patch in anticipation of its culminating act.
The corn is hip-high and as one can see, the Italian pole beans are vigorously climbing, the sisters taking turns overtopping each other as they push upward. In my mind I can already see the dense stand of 9-foot high maize, bristling with sweet ears of white corn and heavily hung with meaty 8-inch bean pods.
The difference this year—the reason I've so enjoyed the garden—is that I have managed to be fully present every day. I wake just after dawn and the first two hours of light find me doing what I call "garden yoga," tending and bending among the beds. The incremental growth of everything has established a rhythm for my summer. I feed the garden and it feeds me.
In recent days I have exchanged email messages with an old friend, a person I've known for 30 years but with whom I have corresponded irregularly. It's been many years since we last made contact, and much longer than that since we saw each other. But he'd been paging through the WordGarden and had this to say, poignant and clear in its brevity: "Writing, gardening . . . require presence. This is meditation."
I've been working on developing a new seminar I call Building a Bliss Station. It's a nod to Joseph Campbell's concept of a refuge for meditation, away from the cares of the world; I'm blending that with ideas on how to secure a creative space for writer types. I'll facilitate this session for Lighthouse Writers Workshop at the annual Grand Lake Retreat in a couple of weeks, held on the western flanks of Rocky Mountain National Park here in Colorado.
For weeks, I've been gestating the ideas that inform this seminar. For me, the process is one of thinking, open-ended, about the big picture: creativity, meditation, time & space. Gradually, the ideas have gone from nebulous to connected, coalescing into a coherent whole. When my friend Frank used the word "presence," I felt everything lock into place. It was almost a physical sensation—that my swirling ideas had come suddenly into focus and relationship to one another.
And the point is this: to make a garden flourish, you must be a presence within it. A neglected garden is a weedy and unproductive one. Its few fruits, if there are any at all, will lack quality and flavor. Likewise, for creative people, you have to build a creative space, a bliss station where you shut out distraction and interruption, where your ideas open out and you can produce tangible results. You need time, space, and presence within that spacetime. To put it another way, consider physicists who evoke Euclidean mathematics to describe spacetime as a four-dimensional model: the familiar length, width, height, combined with non-spatial time. You must occupy and be in motion (creating) within established space. This four-dimensional activity is where and how one makes writing of value.
So I'll go back to my garden today, my bliss station, where I will soak up the abundant green joy, do a bit of writing, and finish working on my seminar notes. Things are growing and bearing fruit. It's a good place to be.