Green-gold light slants into the walled garden in the back of the house, my secret place. Time stops here as I kneel beside the heady mix of herbs…silvery sage, lavender-flowered nepeta, and minty bergamot. The red blossoms that will follow are irresistible to hummers. Pungent Russian sage awaits the blue flowers that envelope it later this summer.
Unaware of my silent presence, a rust-capped sparrow rustles beneath the wild privet, planted by his kind, and the bittersweet vine…its white flowers lemony sweet when they appear later in spring. He darts past the peach tree in the center of this verdant space to scavenge sunflower seeds from under the feeder that hangs in the sour cherry tree. A towering crabapple that my great Uncle Houston warned me would get far too large has fulfilled his prediction and presses against the back of the house. But its shady branches filter the hot western sun from the kitchen and are glorious beyond words when dripping with a wealth of crimson blossoms. A profusion of flowers, more than is sane or possible, crowd along the garden wall, fill the island around and under the peach, and creep or swarm their way into the rock-strewn path.
Soft light touches glistening white iris, spires of lavender dame’s rocket and regal lupines. Nodding columbines meld together like kindred spirits in shades of pink, rose and yellow. Dainty sprays of pink coral bells float above a cloud of blue forget-me-nots and filmy love-in-a-mist. Bright yellow globe amaranth flowers intersperse almost everything, all rioting together in happy abandon.
More herbs mingle with the flowers in every bed I touch and the vegetable garden: thyme, sweet marjoram, lavender, dill, basil, parsley, and with them their rich link to the past. Ancient Romans, Greeks, and my ancestors from the British Isles knew many of these same plants as they are today and cherished their varied uses. When I see, touch, smell, or taste herbs of antiquity, I am experiencing what countless generations have before me.
My job? To tend this bit of earth, but mostly to savor and learn.