The Garden where Nobody Goes

(A thought for the solstice, when our minds turn to longer days and a growing season ahead. Of course we want others to enjoy our plantings… but then, there is also the temptation of having it all for ourselves!)

I keep a garden where nobody goes, beyond river and mountain, a long way from home. Every midsummer, I come to patch its winter-worn fabric with new phloxes or hollyhocks and pull out the weeds that have made their yearly pilgrimage to see if their turn to dominate the world has come. The water I pour onto the sandy soil is sucked rootward after a moist moment in the sun. The rest of the year, my garden has to get along by itself. If a neighbor strolls by in May, or a couple from town in September, they enjoy colors I never see: daffodils, day lilies, cream and magenta wild asters that mingle with the florist breeds. There are four gardens there, one for each season, each direction of the compass, each side of the white house with the green trim. It is a house that nobody knows, unless they walk right up to it along the grassy drive under low-growing branches. From the paved road, it is down the hill, across the magic curtain of the brook, and into the trees. In my grandparents’ time, outsiders could see it without drawing near, but no longer. Like an old farm couple living off its acres, it exists quietly. Friends say it is generous of me to keep a garden where nobody goes and a house that nobody knows. I say, not really: if everyone did it, things would be different, that’s all, as it would be in the city, at the end of the work day, people came outside to sit on their doorsteps and strum their guitars in the evening air.

— Nathaniel Smith, 1990’s