the shade thickened, the gardens thrived.
Their children had babies too.
I was born in spring in the southeast
corner of a half-finished house on a hill, a
red-breasted bird singing outside the open
window. I walked the creek and built forts
in the crooks of birches; I followed the
stone walls and gorged on blackberries; I
built myself a room made of hemlock and
pine; I climbed into the carcasses of those
rotting cars and imagined all the places I
would someday go.
And I did go: deserts, cities, other countries. But I came back. I live here now. My
one-year-old daughter knows the path to
the creek, the song of the robin, the name
of her road, and how to choose the ripest,
plumpest, sweetest blackberry.
THROUGH GARDENING, don’t I come to know this place, in all its
beautiful peculiarities? Not as mine, but
as me. Not separate from the bound-
aries I call memory, but rather a con-
tinuation of my identity. This ragged
border begins in the perennial order
of spring, now gone to seed, memories
blown and scattered, like dandelions. I
am these wildflowers. Cardinal, Blan-
ket, Wall, and Straw. I am this arbor
arched with antique roses, and if any-
thing they own me. Won’t they know
me by the dirt beneath my fingernails?
Deep Lake, Minnesota
IN THE MORNING the lake is dappled, full of sleepy light clinging to reeds
and hiding among lily pads. I peer down
and there are ten thousand kingdoms: one
is full of long arms twirling toward the
water’s surface; another strains its fingers
in ruler-straight lines; and an underwater
cloud of mossy tendrils breathes as one,
grows as one, should not be disturbed by a
paddle. There are whole regions of shadow.
In the afternoon the light is loud,
which gives everything else permission.
The wind teases the surface, and the lake
plunks at its touch, laughs. The cattails
and bulrushes bump their slim shoulders,
shivering despite the heat. Fish leap from
the water and belly-flop back. Dragonflies
flit. Spiders spin. Always there is a boy
about ten, unafraid of splinters, racing
down a wooden dock and catapulting him-
self through the light into the kind of dark
he will be afraid of at night, but not now.
Not under the hands of such a sun. Not
when there is so much cheering.
In the evening, I believe I’m in a world
more luminous, more tender than I have
ever known, and I memorize how the
light sifts through the day’s sieve. I smell
the earth and water cooling. And I listen
to the crows and crickets and toads and
turtles and loons and yellow perch as they
find somewhere or someone they love and
begin to sing. That is when the sun slides
from shine to glow, from yellow to red,
from preening to blush. It is like watching
someone beautiful undress.
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