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A SUBTLE PROGRESS
May 29, 2004
 
Today will be sunny and not too hot -- the perfect garden day. Frances is coming down, with fire in her eyes and dirt on her mind, and I have a list. Weeding, of course, and top-dressing everybody with some compost, but I have also pledged to remove the last of the ivy from one side of the front, to plant some flowers where the ugly half-dead evergreen was on that side, to move the remaining forsythias into a hedge formation, dig up the yarrow in the front and move it to the side border, where it will have more room and I may like it better. And we need to clip the walkway in front. Then I need to saw the tree Q took down into manageable lengths for the fireplace -- I fantasize about doing that this weekend, while Q is away, presenting him with miraculous evidence that women can do anything.

Half all that will be a lot, of course. Your reach always exceeds your grasp in a garden. The hours drift by, a long, sweet song of lifting and digging, of dark compost in a shovel, a song of pruning in just the right way at just the right spot, releasing energy in a plant that the plant didn't know it had. You get dirty and surprisingly sweaty, as sweaty as you get from a fairly high-end gym workout. Your manicure bites the dust: I didn't get one yesterday, in anticipation of today. Perhaps I will go tomorrow afternoon, for some repair work: the manicurists shake their heads when they see my nails after a day in the garden. Wear gloves, they say. I do wear gloves. But I keep having to take them off to feel something: there are some things you just have to feel.

At the end of the day, much has been accomplished. New beauties have come to be. But the dream of beauty yet to be remains, and it is very real. Can someone who doesn't know the garden tell we've been working all day? I am not sure. Progress in the garden can be very subtle. Sometimes, only the Gardener can see it.
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