Street scene (with peonies)

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Behold! my front garden, plus the neighbor’s stumps. Flowering now: peony, bee balm, gas plant, coral bells, prairie smoke. Columbines almost over, pinks just getting started.

So it’s June in south Minneapolis, and the peonies are blossoming. I am an inconstant gardener, obsessed with the garden in spring, lackadaisical* in the heat of summer, and then fall and winter come and there’s not much to do but dream. Just now I was sitting on my front step, drinking coffee and pondering the day, when bunches of kids started trooping by. There’s a school one block south of my house and a second-run movie theater three blocks north, so I think sometimes they take their classes to matinées. The kids were all paired up according to the buddy system, holding hands and swinging arms and screeching and dancing, as kids do, with adults leading and bringing up the rear, shy little creatures clinging to hands and slow or distracted ones running to catch up.

I don’t have children myself and mostly find them confusing, but they’re fun to watch, so I continued sitting and drinking coffee. A teacher at the head of her pack with a pink streak in her silver hair bent down, took a big noseful of peony, and said something to the girls behind her, who all sniffed accordingly, and then all the rest followed suit—so I think every kid in that group stuck their nose in a peony.

I only control a very tiny patch of the world, and that very loosely, but I like to think that I can make that patch more beautiful and pleasant, and that the world is just a tiny bit more beautiful and pleasant as a result. It’s why I like gardening, and I think it’s tied to why I like writing—here, I made this, please enjoy it; please?—which is why it’s so gratifying when herds of passing kids enjoy the flowers, and one of the reasons I’m writing about it here.

The other reason I like both gardening and writing is probably self-indulgence.

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Lettuces! Cabbages! Ramps! Beets! Chard! Snap peas and green beans! Various herbs! Lambs quarters, wood sorrel, and volunteer onions being tolerated. Cucumbers in the pots will theoretically grow over the chainlink and make that corner more verdant and crunchy. And of course, most importantly, there’s Romeo!

You’ll note the weeds in there with the lettuces and beets. Like I said, I’m not a very good gardener, just an enthusiastic one. The peonies, for example: I always forget to cage them, so the weight of the flowers makes them flop over. I cut the biggest and floppiest ones and now my house is full of peonies, too.

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Two vases on one piano and you know you’ve got a problem. The map is Paris, the gray lines are all the streets my husband walked while we lived there.

Anyway, I don’t have any real writing news, though I’m always clutching a few lottery tickets and hoping they’ll pay out. I’m spending most of my time lately as an intern at a small publishing company, doing editorial and translation assistant type work, and slugging at the dissertation. Nice to stop and think about flowers; I recommend sticking your nose in one as soon as you get a chance.

*I thought this might be a pun (“I don’t give a daisy whether you live or die, you stupid spinach!”) but according to Etymonline, the word comes from people saying “lack-a-day” to express their woe.

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