Reading The New Garden Book on the First Day of Spring

Mar 21, 2014

It takes courage to say, “The shrubs and grass
must go.” But courage is what’s needed.

This yard has fine trees, but the shrubbery
is scraggly and dull, the lawn patchy.

Vexing slopes, eroded soil, patchy turf.
The trash can is more necessary

than lovely. The stairs in the back
are a missed opportunity. Lacks charm.

A “before” nightmare!

Take stock, then: what do you have?
Write down all considerations.

Where do the shadows fall? How
do they change through the seasons?

On paper it is cheap and easy to try
any variety of dreams. Don’t restrict yourself.

Plant fruit trees in the sun. Take advantage
of microclimates. Put tender plants on the south side.

Plan ahead. Mistakes may not become glaring
reality for years, wasting all that growth.

For big or complicated jobs,
call in experts.

This is mostly a found poem based on lightly edited and rearranged phrases and sentences from pp. 28-31 of The Better Homes and Gardens New Garden Book (Des Moines: Meredith, 1990). Feeling inspired as the ice age recedes here in Michigan and reveals flattened, thatchy grass, scraggly shrubs, and thawing mud, I took this old book off the shelf yesterday and found myself impressed by its metaphysical profundity.

I have published books on motherhood, Christian spirituality, and language in worship. I write regularly about all sorts of topics for The Twelve, and I teach literature and writing at Calvin College, where I have served on the faculty since 1996.

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