For Sunday, March 6, 2016:
“A rockpile ceases to be a rockpile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, THE LITTLE PRINCE
Across the little dirt road from my front bedroom window there is a pile of rocks. They’re in a different configuration from the one that was there when we first moved here because snow plows and water line workers with excavators have pushed them farther from the road and a little closer to the woods.
The bigger rocks – small boulders, really – likely will stay where they are now, holding up a slight slope of dirt and brush that is shaped rather like a miniature amphitheater. The smaller rocks, though, get moved around on a regular basis by the young men who live next door. I call them ‘kids,’ but they’re in their late 20s or early 30s. These young men spend a fair amount of time over there laying out trackways for their remote-controlled cars and trucks. Their image of that rockpile is obviously a race track.
Mine is a garden. Every time I look over there, I see daffodils and violets in the spring, Queen Anne’s lace, milkweed, and other wildflowers in the summer and fall. I see a birdbath or a small pool for the birds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, squirrels, and deer to refresh themselves, and maybe the occasional bear.
Before I knew the kids had their own plans for that little rocky slope, I scattered all kinds of flower and tree seeds over there. A few months later, all the neighbors dumped their raked up leaves in the same spots. So much for those seeds, but I tried again the next two years. Nothing was obvious, but some wildflower seeds take a year or two to germinate.
The heavy equipment came in early last summer. Any potential seedlings that might have survived the collective leaf dumps were plowed under and scraped over. As soon as the machines finished, the ‘boys’ next door were out there, raking away woody debris and rearranging the smaller rocks into new tracks.
By then, I had virtually given up my attempts at any semblance of a garden, wild or otherwise, in that spot, so two apparently lifeless hydrangeas that wouldn’t grow next to the house joined the piles of leaves, branches, sticks, and rocks across the road. Near the end of the summer, however, I found those same hydrangeas had rooted together and were now thriving. They had tripled in size! Given that success, I tossed a handful of old daffodil bulbs behind the hydrangeas (and away from any robo-racing). My best friend had done the same years ago and was rewarded with an ever-growing expanse of naturalized daffodils every year.
It’s almost spring here again, so it’s almost time to start looking for the first green shoots of the early daffodils. I don’t know if those old bulbs will do anything – they may have been too old – but at least I can hope again. If the hydrangeas made it through our mild winter, I know I’ll start thinking about the possibility of a garden across the road again. It won’t be a cathedral, but it will be more than just piles of leaves, sticks, and rocks.