Whatever happened to science? I don’t remember Biology, but History I recall as if it were yesterday. Our menagerie used to be measurable. We could feed all the animals under Mr. Huemiller’s desk, as long as the text was in cursive. Simone, do you remember Jardin, the cartoon monkey we named after a garden because we liked the sound first and the meaning after? As the possibility of my garden grows nearer – boxes boxed in in the back yard – I find myself thinking of the future as pencil sketched on lined paper, the garden arranging itself in rows almost without us. I suppose Mr. Huemiller was our gardener: he certainly availed himself of the short khaki shorts. Leg up on a desk like Washington crossing the Delaware, we surreptitiously built our Eden under that frozen river; the underside of flip-top wooden desks, emblazoned with initialed epitaphs to first middle school crushes. I wonder if our creations matured along with us? Once I found a box filled with their old exploits, haphazardly folded and tucked in with dried prom corsages and cheap silver chains.
I’m trying to make things now and keep them alive, but it’s harder on a colder coast, Simone. In Venice all your cacti stay alive, I’ve seen them. You must be proud. Someday you’ll see the garden here and know that the trajectory of those furrows flows further back than even History: there’s a swing-set. There’s you telling me you’re older because you are bigger and I believed you. I believe you.
My characters are coming to life, and sometimes even staying that way. While writing this letter to you, Harold, the bachelor tom who sometimes roosts in the cherry tree in the back, toddled across the yard. I hadn’t seen him all winter and assumed he’d withered without my attention. As a writer, as a gardener, as a teacher, I wonder if we don’t over-interpret the influence of our attention. Things grow on their own, as you came to learn from a sunless mother. They don’t (necessarily) just up and die on you if you don’t give them time. I feel fortunate we didn’t wither together. You know, the end of Candide, the final bars of “Make our Garden Grow” always get me in that gorgeous orchestral swell. Maybe things do go on without us. We try our best. Maybe Jardin has been watering our little creatures in our little garden this whole time. There’s always lined paper, and time; three holes punched. What do you think, Simone?