Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2nd Avenue Garden

I've been thinking a lot about magic. So much of life is practical, grimy and grinding--but to me there is a glimmer of golden thread that's magic about it. The thread winds through the core of me and stretches out into life making everything all right and often heart-achingly beautiful.

My first memories are magical and belong to the garden of my childhood home on 2nd Avenue. I had a corner room on the second story of an old house--at least old for a Salt Lake City house. The room was on the northeast corner. It had windows lining both sides, so every morning I would wake up with the sun.

On summer Saturdays I would wake to the sound of lawn mowers. My dad was always interested in the community and we had a prison work release detail mow our lawn--I didn't know this at the time. I remember peeking at the workmen and seeing faces that seemed, to a young child, as old, lined and tired.

To me it was just magical to wake up to the smell of cut grass coming in through my window. To this day I can't resist the smell of cut lawn. I know it is how green smells. Even though I know that our Kentucky Blue Grass lawns guzzle water in the desert I love the soft green-blue carpet--and secretly hope we never have to give them up.

The garden was unusual. We had thousands of flowers and two large earthy areas behind our kitchen sown with zinnias just for cutting. There were large bushes to hide in, a gazebo with a fort in the top. We had plum trees with dark leaves, casting deep shadows even in the height of summer. The fruit was almost black and dropped to the ground in the fall, filling the air with heady smells of sugar and fermentation.

One fall the whole family was organized and sent to the garden to plant thousands and thousands of bulbs. My dad prepared the beds with peat moss. We planted and planted and planted. The next spring the daffodils and tulips were pouring out of our yard. My mom cut bucketfuls and gave them away, took them to church and placed them on every table in our home. I wrapped many cut stems in wet paper towels and took them to my school teachers.

Years later when I planted my first garden in my first house I covered the beds with peat moss. I poured the spiky clouds of peat onto the ground, and as I mixed it in with my shovel I was overcome by such an immediate and visceral memory of that time I burst into tears. I hadn't known how much I loved that smell, hadn't even known to miss it. That was the strongest of the magic, pulling me back in time.

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