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Monday, December 13, 2010

mister good morning

The Mennonite Brethren Herald out of Canada published a reprint of this story. They did a great job on it. Twisting vine leaves about the margins, giving the whole text a kind of garden backdrop, showing an image of a small, very Mediterranean-looking man among his plants and orchards.

It remains, along with Boj, The Divine Game of Pinzatski, Pangur Ban, and the novels Mizzly Fitch and Zo, one of the more popular fictions God has given me the head space and heart space to write.

And I remember him . . .



MISTER GOOD MORNING


There were two gardens, he said. One at the beginning of the world and another at the end. Both beautiful. Both overflowing with the kind of life and fecundity only things green and rooted and flowering and spangled with rain can give. To breathe in is to breathe in the soul of God. To breathe out is to exhale the Incarnation. Mister Buon Giorno we called him, because he was as warm and mellow as a prairie summer sunrise, and because he was Italian. Mister Good Morning.
But that sort of talk came later. In the beginning was a tumor of weeds, especially the Scotch thistle, with its purple crown and its agony to anyone who handled it without gloves. Rocks. A rusted spade, brown and crumbly as demerara sugar. Chaos - a yard of hidden darkness sown with tin cans and chip packages and splinters of glass. The whole earth lumped and cracked and, in a rain wind, grey and black as a cold pail of ash. The fence tired and sagging, letting anything come and go, fed up. The house was a normal white stucco with a dead brown roof and dead brown window trim. I passed by this house and the yard a thousand times, seeing nothing, my mind on where I was going. I finally noticed the yard when I fell into it from a tall crab apple tree.
It was Old Man Reynolds’ tree. His house, white and blue and sturdy, dominated one end of our block. His backyard was green with leaves and apples and grass. The fence was white and solid. And there, on the other side of it, was the chaos. Reynolds’ yard, on the other hand, was paradise. A crab apple Eden. And it was we who, succumbing to temptation, took and ate.
Not that Reynolds let us get it without a fight. The back door could fly open, a blaze of light, the joy of fear running up the stairs in our chests, our shirts and pockets bumpy with the little apples, jumping, racing, laughing, while Old Man Reynolds thundered to the gate and harried us into darkest night, illumined by only a few gleaming street lamps: “You leave my apple trees alone!”
Once he’d clearly had enough and was determined to make a kill. We ran with the legs of eleven- and twelve-year-olds, pronghorns, and he raged after us down the back lane, through the yards, almost over a seven-foot fence. A hand that had seen many summers gnarled over the edge of this fence, a foot popped over, there was the promise of the whole enraged beast, and we continued to pelt across the yard into another back lane. But the hand trembled on the wood, the shoed foot strained, there was a shout, both hand and foot disappeared, a crashing and a rolling and a silence. Old Man Reynolds limped back to Crab Tree Castle.
We hooted. We cheered. But, in actuality, I saw none of this. When the wrath of Reynolds had blazed all around us, I had been so startled I toppled backwards over the fence into the yard of darkness. Scotch thistles eagerly speared my back and legs and tore their nails across my eyes and mouth. The little apples spilled out over the crusted earth. I felt Reynolds blunder down the lane after the others like a snorting buffalo bull. Suddenly there was a jabbing pain in my elbow. A rock. I tried to roll over and I thrust my hand in fierce glass that happily drew my blood. More thorns spiked my face. I stopped moving. I heard Reynolds come back. He went into his house and returned with a flashlight, playing it over his yard, spitting out hard, short words as he examined the branches stripped of fruit and leaf. The beam passed over my body and I saw the blood on my fingers. Then his door thumped shut.
“That crazy yard!” I steamed to the others later. “I’m going to fix it.”
“What about the owners?”
“No one owns it. The house is empty. The Shanks moved out in the spring.”
“Somebody bought it.”
“Well. They’re not here yet. I’m going to clean up that mess so we can use the yard for hiding. Who wants to help?”
I wound up hacking at the weeds on my own, imagining I was battling an army, one kilted, thorny Scot falling after another, in the dark, no moon, just like the war movies I watched. I had Dad’s working gloves, some old jeans, a Levi’s jacket. After the weeds, I chopped at the soil with a pick, always hitting stone, the shock burning my arms, water blisters leaping up on my palms, the glass cut biting under its bandage. The next time I raided the crab apple trees I would leap onto soft soil, crouching like a panther. I put aside the pick for a spade, shoving it in with my runnered foot, turning the rough soil over.
“You are beginning a garden?”
I dropped my shovel and was sure it was Old Man Reynolds. I was about to spring over the broken fence. But the voice was not Reynolds’ and the man was too small.
“You are a good boy to do this work for me. It always breaks my back. And under the stars! You are a romantic.”
He came closer and knelt, both knees, in the bit of earth I had cleared and turned. He took up handfuls and rubbed them against his face.
I still wanted to run. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know you lived here.” I began to clink and clatter the tools together and head for the fence.
“Smell this, eh?” In the darkness he held darkness. “Under allof that rubbish, black soil, Red River soil, I can grow everything with this. Come.”
He took the hoe from me and he began whacking at the weed bushes. “Keep on. You are welcome here.” Hesitantly, I began to shove in the spade with my foot once again. After thirty minutes he said it was enough. I still had not seen his face clearly.
“Tomorrow is Saturday. Come tomorrow and I will give you lunch. Bring your tools.”
In five years I would be thinking his voice was black olives and piazzas and warm winds and Mediterranean waters, for by then I would have traveled to Caserta and Perugia and Roma and Assisi for myself. That night I thought he might be Polish or Dutch. He shook my hand. His skin was burning. I went down the lane three houses to my own place, leaned the fork and spade and hoe and pick against the back wall, gazed up at the gusts of summer stars, no moon, bright water beads on a black coat sleeve. I did not want to go in and sleep, for that would be an ending.
We cleared the entire yard the next day and turned every foot of the rigid soil. Rocks were heaped in one corner of the yard, weeds in another.
“Let them rot,” he said, spraying the dead thistles and dandelions and chickweed with a hose. “Soon they will change their minds and help us. They will grow beans and tomatoes and squash.”
The lunch was a salad, heavier to hold in my bowl than anything Mother made, full of things I would have refused at home - green olives, hot red peppers, spinach, misshapen white chunks of feta cheese. All drenched in olive oil and wine vinegar. There was a crusty heel of narrow white bread. I sat with him under the June sun and ate it all, wiping my bowl with the bread like he did.
“Good? Eh?”
“Yes.”
“But nothing. How old is the spinach? How old are the peppers? They drive them up from Mexico and California before they are even ripe. In August, you will feast like a king. Everything will be fresh. You will taste something then.”
The following Saturday was the fence. We knocked down the old, pounded in the new, a lattice of cedar wood he had me stain a burgundy red. While I flicked the brush he began to set up poles. Then he dug furrows. A sack lying on the earth produced a mound of seed packages and some dark bottles.
“What’s in those bottles?” I asked.
“Seeds I have kept in the dark. Finish the fence and come.”
There were rows zig-zagging all over the black earth. Beans, peas, zucchini, corn, broccoli.
“We are starting a month late,” he said, “but we will be all right. We will have a hot September. And what do your Father and Mother plant?”
“Potatoes. Beets. Carrots. Peas. Green beans. Dill.”
“Ah. Dill. Here, over here we will sow the herbs. So many bees will come.”

July I spent at summer camp, shooting arrows, banging away with .22 rifles, riding horses, canoeing, hurling myself into food fights. When I returned to our street in August, I had that young feeling of being older and wiser and a force to be reckoned with. I came down the back lane one morning heading for the bus stop.
“Buon giorno!” he called.
The yard was a forest. Beans raced scarlet up poles. Thick green leaves swarmed over the earth. A grape vine knotted itself along the lattice fence. Arbours had been built, offering gateways in and out of various parts of the garden, and they hung with zucchini and cucumbers. Flagstone laced through the bursting green. I was sure I recognized carrots and beets. The discarded rocks in the corner had been mounded in earth and rearranged, interspersed with blossoming plants, most with pink or white flowers, which he told me were herbs, and he named each one. The bees were all over them.
When I came into the yard I felt I was entering another country. Vines dangled over my head, brushing my hair. I stepped through an arbor and was overcome by colors and scents that left me bewildered. I found an old wooden bench and sat down. My new-found summer confidence evaporated. Dark plants pressed against me.
“Here.”
It was a cherry tomato. I never ate tomatoes. I took it and tossed it in my mouth at once. The juice was sweet. The tomatoes in Mother’s salad were pink. Why were these like dripping blood?
He sat beside me, drinking a glass of water, offering me one.
“There is much more to do,” he nodded, “but the birds have already begun to come. Look. Robins. But it is the meadowlark I want. Over there are some seed bushes he should like. How is your parents” garden?”
“Very neat and tidy.”
“Gardens must have a rhythm, that’s true, but they should also be discoveries. You should make people search. I still need to build a pond, a fountain, some running water. I ought to have St. Francis of Assisi. Francesco. But not as a birdbath. I think, kneeling, and a stream passing from his cupped hands. Do you go to church?”
“Anglican.”
“So you know the Holy Bible very well and all about the saints.”
“I guess.”
“Eden is the first garden, emerging out of the dark.” He took bread and cheese from a pack by his feet and carved off large portions for both of us. “Then there is the whole of life. We lose Eden. But God brings us back to paradise at the end. So this is my garden. Two Edens. Look.”
He pointed with his knife at two rows of saplings I had not noticed. “Dwarf cherries. Twelve. And the stream must run down between them. You read the Holy Bible in your church, don’t you? The river of God. The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the world. God walks in the garden with us again. Genesis. And the Revelation of St. John. The Apocalypse. So this is the idyllic. The perfect ending. You enter through that arbor and you are in Eden. Then you walk over there, you see, and you are expelled - I have some plants with strong odors and grim faces. But there, that other arbor, you step through the river of God and the trees are all about you, you are safe. Heaven. The garden is all one piece. Do you see that? The expulsion is our lives. It is only a moment.”
I dreamed of his head, his face, exactly as it was, truer than it was. Dark hair around the back and sides. Ears tight to the head. A sharp dome of a skull. Eyes and eyebrows as if they were part of his garden, thick, hidden, a steady light, silver light, growing light. Small, smiling lips. He was planted, rooted, growing upward. Like his bean shoots or his scarves of lettuce. Black the soil from which he rose.

Summer could not end this garden. Fall crops fought up out of autumn death, kale green as the sea, curling over brown and orange leaves he let the wind blow in and out of Eden and back and forth through Heaven. “There is,” he said as we drank tea together in October, “no end to God.” I never drank tea.”
The snows ought to have ended it. They were early that year, before Hallowe’en, whitening the world. Cold pressed against our faces and our homes. Christmas Eve I returned with my family from St. Mark’s Anglican. We took a shortcut down the back lane. The arbors were rimmed with ice and brilliant with silver lights. And there were other lights. All along the fence. In the dwarf cherry trees. Smaller lights strewn over the snow on the ground, as if it were a seeding. The whole lane shone.
“Look at that,” my Father said.
“He has some new evergreens there,” observed Mother. “And a Colorado blue spruce. Silver lights and thick snow. He must be a charming man.”
“The guy’s a nut,” my brother laughed.
“Shut up!” I shot.
“Do you two want to spend Christmas in the basement?” demanded Father.

Spring came in a hurry in March. The sun wasted no time. Snow melted quickly and the street flooded. The garden became a lake. Two mallards kicked lazily about. He laughed, the water over his boots, and threw them bread crumbs.
“Why not? I have my pond.”
The planting was in May. He asked me to join him.
“I’m alone,” he grunted as he pounded in a pole. “It’s too big a country, eh? Vancouver. Calgary. Montreal. Halifax. My children are all over. But you will meet them this summer.”

July took me to another camp. When I returned, Eden had burst full-grown from the earth, St. Francis bent and pouring water along a bed of colored stones. I saw it at night, a half-moon giving enough light to see the leaves turning over and over in the warm wind. Traffic raced on the main street one house away. But when I opened the gate and stood within all the growing and flowing I might as well have been up a mountain slope in the Rockies for all the city noise that penetrated. I sat on a bench and breathed in. I recognized chive and fennel and strawberry. Heaped against his house were banks of flowers. I got up and went to them. The smell was a shock. I was used to pushing my nose into flowers when someone insisted and scenting nothing, having to pretend. The wind rolled the breath of the blossoms over me like dark purple breakers.
“Buon giorno!” he called the next day, the sun finding him under the deep green and putting gold to his arms. Two men and a woman sat with him in shorts and T-shirts. “Come. This is Franky. Anthony. And Carolina. This is the boy who has been helping me.”
They laughed all through that morning I was with them. They shared their lunch, an evergreen sheltering us from a hot yellow sun. Salad, fish, chicken. Grape juice spotted with the petals of orange and white pansies.
“Eden, you see,” he nodded. “Heaven. God walks with us. He crushes the sage between his fingers. So we can smell it.”
I helped him with the harvest along with his children. I was picking the cucumbers, reaching around mirrors to gently release them from their stalks.
“Doesn’t this place cheer you up?” smiled Carolina, her hair and eyes dark as the soil that grew the garden.
“Yes.”
“You seem so sullen. Excuse me.”
I shrugged and picked smaller cucumbers for pickles.
“It’s none of my business. Here. Have a strawberry. We are all grateful you’ve become our father’s friend. He misses us. Mother’s been gone two years now. But it’s a big country. What can we do? He’s seventy this birthday. Tomorrow. Come over. I have some special ice cream.”

There was a center to the garden where red bricks had been laid in a swirl and the brick right in the middle was etched with the name ROSA. There was lasagna and a pasta salad tossed with anchovies and a grilled salmon. It was a very loud time. The ice cream was good, swift and sweet in my throat.
“I have no meadowlarks, Tony,” he said. And later, to Carolina, glancing down, “The garden where God walks. Heaven. So Rosa is there now. She holds seeds I cannot sow here. Holds plants I can never touch. Good for her.” He wiped his eye and drank from a glass of water bobbing with lemon wedges. “I still do not have the pond,” he turned to Franky, “and I do not have the meadowlark. But soon, I pray.”
“It’s time for Mass, Papa,” Carolina announced, standing up.
“Ah. You can come with us.”
I shook my head.
“I’d better go home.”
“You are welcome.”
“I’ll see you next week. It was great to celebrate your birthday. It’s been great to meet all of you.”

The garden was eternal. Fall, winter, it remained, growing, sparkling with lights, all the other yards dark, Old Man Reynolds dead and the crab trees chopped down by a younger man who wanted a swimming pool. I imagined flying over the city by night and in the pool of darkness seeing Mister Good Morning’s lights climbing up to heaven. Several times when it was cold and late I came in through the back gate and left my bootprints in the snow. I swept off the bench and sat. Once it began to snow so softly, it was as if a flock of trumpeter swans had silently flown over, shedding long feathers that turned slowly and came to rest across the backs of my hands. Breathe in the breath of God, he said. Breathe out the flesh grafted to God. Care for God’s garden. A privilege. Stoop down with him. Weed. Sow. Water. Harvest. Eat. Drink. Pray. Laugh. You see? All his plants, his herbs, his flowers. From Eden to Eden. The beginning of the Holy Bible, the end of the Holy Bible. Peace. Healing. Do you see?

Nothing changed except that I grew and the herbs grew and the evergreens grew and he created a pond and stocked it with goldfish and the sun rose and set and some winters the wind blew with a kind of madness and made the lights dance.
I took the train to Acadia University and I grasped a paper bag of vegetables and fruit in my lap. “This is your garden as much as mine,” he said. “Visit me when you come back.”
I returned at Christmas to a creche in the garden, dotted with fallen needles and oak leaves, blue lights pure over the sequined snow. I did not see him. There was a white candle in my pocket. Lit, the candle stood tall over the ice and the angels, patterns changing Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the magi, dark to light to dark. It burned quickly, guttered, the snow about it scorched and stained with the melted wax. A new chime he had tied to the blue spruce rang as a breeze jumped through the garden.

For two summers I did not return, working in Nova Scotia to earn my tuition for the fall. Once I received a card with a rose pressed carefully, the red of a cold winter sunrise: I thought of the garden when grey winds blew in off the iron sea. He sat in it, warm, content, basking in green and yellow and in the love of God. Water ran past his feet and the robins and blackbirds and sparrows thrashed their wings in its coolness.
I came home. Mother and Father’s garden was half its size, twelve neat rows of radishes, peas, beans, and lettuce. I did not walk down the lane for several days.
The garden was brown. Poles leaned in all directions. The river of God was a strip of dried mud. No, there was a spot of color, a yellow rose drooped, its stalk limp. I opened the gate. It was stiff. Fruit and vegetables had begun in hope and died. He was crouched on the red bricks by ROSA. I hadn’t seen him at first. There were grey branches screening him and he himself seemed grey and shifting, like a raw February wind.
“Sir,” I greeted him.
“You have been gone a long time.” He stood up and forced a smile. His face sprouted sharp black hairs. He shook my hand without strength.
“Do you know your Holy Bible?” he asked me.
“Yes.”
“How many gardens are there?”
“I don’t know.”
“There is Eden. And the garden of Heaven. Yes. And a garden of Love in the Song of Solomon. Father Ferley showed me that. All kinds of gardens. But I didn’t realize. I didn’t think.”
He bent to pick a dried strawberry and roll it between his fingers.
“What about the other? The darkest one? The garden of blood and betrayal? The God who crushes. Did you know that Gethsemane means oil press? So our Lord Jesus prays and there is no way out of life. The doors are shut. All is black. The blood is squeezed out of him. I did not see this garden, just the others, the bright ones. What a fool.”
He sat down by ROSA again and looked up at me, his eyes drawing further and further into his skull. “They came with their wives, Carolina with her husband. And the children. My grandchildren. I had never seen the grandchildren. They rented a big van in Toronto and they came together. A great party. They drove out of their lane into a semi truck. That is how all my children die. No. Carolina at least I have left. She cannot move her arms or legs but she can talk. That is good. So this is Gethsemane now. Not Eden.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. We can, I can help you. I’ll plant it. I’ll water it. You won’t have to do a thing.”
“No!” I had never heard him shout. “It is Gethsemane. Let the thorns grow back and all the plants die. The soil dry up. Let the sun beat on it and make it a desert. It is a garden of death and betrayal. I do not want to see you in the garden again. Water nothing. Plant nothing.”
I was home the entire summer but I did not see him again. Like a dying spider, the brown garden curled its vines and stalks and roots up into itself and ceased to move or breathe. Thunder. Lightning. Summer rain. Hail. An arbor collapsed. The fence began to sag. Brown dissolved into black. In September I flew to Hamilton and to seminary.
He sent me a Christmas card. I opened it to a dead, brown, yellow rose and a dozen securely glued thorns and several squashed beetles.
In February there was another card. It was typed. This one was from Carolina. When March break came, I took a plane home.
He would not answer to my knocks. So I walked in. The dishes were clean in the drying rack. The floors shone. The carpet was free of dirt. All the windows took in the spring light. There were baskets of flowers in every room. All the flowers were silk or plastic. But well dusted.
He was watching a game show, withered in a large brown leather chair.
“How is school?” he asked.
“Fine.”
“And you learned something from the Holy Bible?”
“Yes.”
“What do you learn about death?”
“Come to the garden with me.”
“No.”
“We can dig it up. Turn it over. Get rid of the thorns.”
“No. It is a garden. A special garden.”
“It isn’t the only garden.”
“It is the truest garden.”
“No.”
“Get out. If I see you in my yard, day or night, I will call the police.”
“When did you see Carolina last?”
“She is dead.”
“She’s at the hospital in Toronto.”
“They are all dead.”
“You never answer her letters. You never visit.”
“Who can visit the dead?”
“You could go to her. Take her hand. Squeeze it. She’d feel that.”
“Who can hold a dead daughter’s hand?”
I do not know how much he slept each night. If he heard me, he chose not to come out. But perhaps the blustery March wind that scraped and rasped against the walls of his house covered the scrape and rasp of my own tools, my Father’s tools. I worked half the night. It was Maundy Thursday. But I did not finish. I returned the next night, Good Friday. It was utterly black, as if the sky had been blinded. I chopped. I dug. Shovelful after shovelful. I came back Saturday night too, clawing up the thorns, hacking at them with my hoe, smacking pick into rock as I had done as a boy. It rained. I worked until a filthy dawn seeped down over my head. I carried my tools home and washed my hands and face and ate a piece of toast. When the morning was silver, I returned.
What would Old Man Reynolds have done if one of us had pitched a rock through his picture window? I took up a large stone and hurled it. The window shattered. He came running to the gaping hole.
“Are you crazy?”
“Come to the garden with me.”
“I am calling the police.”
“My youngest brother died of a seizure. Before there was any garden. My other brother was killed in a plane crash up north when you turned seventy. I came to the garden when you asked me to. I kept coming to the garden no matter what.”
He staggered out of the house in his undershirt and pants and bare feet. Glass had cut one of his toes and blood patched the sidewalk. He came into the backyard and his eyes shot back and forth angrily.
“What is this? Who did this? You did this! You put up a cross! What’s that on it? What did you do?”
“It’s the gardener.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s God.”
“You’re crazy.”
“He’s the gardener. He’s on the cross. He’s dead. Your Garden of Gesthemane wasn’t complete.”
“Take it down.”
“There’s another garden.”
“There is no other garden. Take it down.”
I swung an axe that had been leaning against the house, weathered and rusted. The steel slammed into the wood. His eyes jumped and he stepped quickly away from me. I chopped ten or twelve times and the cross, cut through, collapsed, along with the effigy, a bearded figure in dark green overalls that rolled over and over until clutched by the thorn bush.
With the cross down he saw the hill of earth I had built up in the corner of the yard. It was wet and ugly, branches and roots jabbing out of it like the fingers of tortured hands.
“What did you do there?” he demanded.
“It’s the other garden.”
“It is a pile of mud.”
He walked towards it. On the other side was a ragged hole. He approached it, his feet slick with mud and water. He dropped to his knees to look in.
“There’s nothing,” he growled.
“It’s a grave.”
“What?”
“How well do you know the Holy Bible? You can’t find the living among the dead.”
His face was streaked with dirt when he looked at me. “You are a sick boy,” he said softly. “Go home and do not come back. We were friends once so I will not call the police.”
“There was another garden. It had death in it too. It had a grave. And they put God in the grave. Dead. But he wouldn’t stay put. And a woman came to see his body and to honour him and to bury God properly. After all, God had done some good, hadn’t he, before we murdered him? She couldn’t find the body. It broke her heart. She looked around her, crying, and saw flowers and herbs and green bushes. She was in a paradise, a beautiful garden. The air was filled with bees and insects and birds and the smell of morning roses. Then she saw someone walking in the garden. But no. It was just the gardener, tending the roses, smoothing the ground near the evergreens, pulling up weeds. He looked at her. What are you crying about? he asked her. Who are you looking for? She said, They’ve taken God away. And I don’t know where to look for him. The gardener yanked the gloves off his hands and rubbed his face and came towards her. Mary, he said.”
The van was late but it pulled slowly into the lane while I was speaking. An attendant in white came out and slid open the side door and operated a lift. There was the loud hum of machinery. A woman in a wheelchair was lowered to the ground outside the broken gate.
“Papa,” the woman said.
He stood in the mud and brambles, staring at her, a drizzle from the morning clouds glistening over his head and arms and face.
“Please open the gate for me.”
He suddenly moved, pulling at the gate, wrenching it, until she moved her left hand just enough to push the button and send the wheelchair forward into the dirt and stone of the yard. Her lap was full of flowers - roses, daisies, lilies. They were all wrapped carefully at the bottom.
“They have their roots and their soil, Papa,” she said. “I’ve come to plant them. It’s Easter Sunday. It’s the beginning of the world.”
Her father came and knelt by the chair. His back shook and heaved. He put his head into her lap, into her flowers, and she lowered her face and cried against his hair and neck. The soft rain gleamed over everything, over skin and stone and earth and death and white roses.
They planned the new garden together. I simply dug and planted alongside him, doing whatever I was asked. Seeds, transplants, pulling up thorns, watering saplings, piling up stones, leveling mounds, turning the rich black soil. The river of God ran again and instead of St. Francis there was a tall white angel. The pond reappeared. Herbs blossomed pink and white and purple. Flowers of all colors spilled over into the walkways. The arbours were repaired and glittered in red grapes. It was Eden again. It was Heaven.
But in the midst of all the brightness and greenery he left a patch of dry earth and rock and violent thorns and the stump of the cross I had cut down. Just beyond this was a white arbor twisted with white roses. Once through the arbor one found red bricks firmly set, etched ROSA and FRANKY and ANTHONY, along with the names of their wives and children and Carolina’s husband. Surrounding this whirl of red were the most amazing flowers in the whole garden, full and rich and brimming over onto the bricks and names. They were all perennials and they rose in whites and crimsons and purples and golds from the blackness of the earth every spring without fail. It is here that he sat, smiling, calling Buon giorno! each morning I passed by, the sun draping his body, Carolina often beside him in her chair. And when the summer rains fell it made their flesh shine like the clearest glass.
So it does not matter that he died or that Carolina left or that the house was sold to another man and his wife who cared nothing for flowers or dwarf cherry trees or the black earth. They cemented it over and built a garage and when I come to visit my widowed Mother now the naked eye sees no Eden, no Gethsemane, no Garden Tomb, no Heaven with the leaves for the healing of the world. But the garden is eternal for I hold it in my soul. And others must too. For one July morning I followed a sound, a most incredible brilliance of sun and light and sky, whirling and rising in a new summer’s grace, and I found a meadowlark tightly gripping the edge of the garage roof, calling, crying, casting out her song to the day star again and again, as if she knew what lay under the cold grey slab below and what, one day, must burst forth and break it into pieces.

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