So deeply is the gardener’s instinct implanted in my soul
that I really love the tools with which I work –
the iron fork, the spade, the hoe, the rake, the trowel,
and the watering pots are pleasant objects in my eyes.
The sidewalks were long and narrow that ran between the stucco houses, and high was the exterior wall of the two-story duplex two doors down from us on the seaward end of the block. At the base of that duplex’s stucco wall was a shallow flower bed filled with pansies and strawberries, and about halfway down the wall was a door that separated the flower bed into two sections. Behind the door was a storage area, a closet of sorts, and because the closet was under the front stairwell of the two story structure, it was one of those odd-shaped little niches with a downward sloping ceiling on one end. In the closet’s mysterious, deeper recesses were all kinds of fascinating tools. When the door to the closet was ajar, it meant Uncle was inside sitting on his stool, working on a yard or household project Auntie had commissioned. The “doghouse” as he called it, was a rich and irresistible den of curiosities for a child, and in it with Uncle as tutor-in-residence I not only learned a great deal but also fell in love with a myriad of things. The closet with its earthy smells and assorted contraptions was a magical place, and the gardening tools were as provocative a sight for young eyes as the images of the storybook gardens they conjured up. Decades later when a friend commented that I live close to nature, I thought of that closet again and realized the lasting impression that it and Uncle had had on my life. Then and there in a place that smelled of soil and sea I came to love and respect the earth for its charming and sometimes “shy presences”–the visible ones, the audible ones, the tangible ones, even the ones that dwell in dim obscurity. Uncle’s closet and his tales gave birth to “stirrings” in me that ultimately led me to believe that all Creation is a holy gift to be cherished and that its Maker is to be adored and praised.
The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him and I will exalt Him. ~Exodus 15:2 ✝
This is the duplex I’ve written about above, and in front of it are Auntie and Uncle as well as me and my two sisters, circa 1952. We were dressed up for Easter Sunday in clothes made, starched, and ironed by our mother’s loving hands. Since our grandparents lived in Texas and Illinois, Aunt Stella and Uncle Walter were for all intents and purposes our “surrogate” grandparents. (Uncle was actually the brother of my maternal grandfather.)