The Greatest Show

If you build it, they will come.

Out of nowhere a robin landed on the fountain. It took a drink, pivoted, and flew off over my head towards the dogwood. Wings stirred the air just inches from my face. I felt the rush. 

Birds were special bonuses on my frequent trips to public gardens like this. Each weekend I ambled down winding brick paths flanked by ancient boxwoods and magnolias, captivated by blankets of wild roses scrambling over weathered trellises and lilacs peeking through picket fences. Blissfully lost in my contented thoughts, a bird would appear to punctuate the scene, every time. Spending time in any garden became the respite I sought out more and more. Gardens promised joy—and birds flew in to seal the deal. 

Soon, I found myself traveling farther and farther for the experience. I had to. The profound calm and serenity in these spaces was remarkable—feelings I realized I love, and need. And there was no way I could recreate the mood in my own backyard.  

Or could I?

My sorry yard contained two nondescript bushes and an old crepe myrtle, their placement decided by a previous owner. Otherwise, it was just a patch of sickly grass. I only passed through to take out the trash, but now I wondered. Did I really need to rely on the horticultural efforts of others for gratification? Surely, I could create a garden of my own, not as large perhaps, but just as amazing as the ones I was longing to visit.

Excitement drove me outside. Disgust sent me back in. Wow, worse than I thought. 

Solemnly, I trudged back out to look around. One of the shrubs needed pruning and the other was actually dead. No bird in sight. After sadly gauging the status of my bleak little space, I did the only thing I could. Got in the car and drove to the next public garden on my list. And there I felt the familiar peace wash over me. Out of nowhere, a bluebird dropped from above to snag a beetle in the grass. 

By the weekend I had mentally regrouped. Confident now in my ability to transform, I ran out to the tiny yard and feverishly dug at the yellowing grass. While doing so, I scratched outlines of flowerbeds into the dirt. Would that look good? Should the lines be softer? Wait, birds would never come. No way to replicate a fine garden here. 

Defeated, I found myself backing out of the driveway, garden list in hand. Once there I felt the familiar peace wash over me. Ah, harmony at last. Out of nowhere, a cardinal landed on the back of a nearby bench.

Later at home, while pulling the trashcan across my dusty plot, it dawned on me. I didn’t need to recreate anything. No garden is wrong. They all change with seasons and years and mine didn’t have to compare. It had only to make me happy. 

Determined, I walked bravely back out to tackle things anew. Shovel by shovel my vision would be revealed. I began work that evening and in spite of fleeting flashes of frustration, felt no urge to grab the car keys. 

For days I dug grass, said goodbye to the bushes, and filled empty spots with fresh plants. The old crepe myrtle looked grand after careful pruning. I wrestled with hoses, tripped over trowels, and fell into holes I had only just dug. I loved it! Paths appeared, and beds aligned. Over two months, wheelbarrows filled with topsoil and trips to the nursery were made, and made again, to gather seed packages, bulbs and vines. I even bought a fountain as a final crowning centerpiece. 

I thought of my old list of public gardens. I knew I would someday visit each of them, but that day I need not travel. Sitting on my new bench under my old crepe myrtle I watched foxgloves sway, ivy creep and water sparkle in the fountain. The little dogwood would show off one April soon enough. There were flowers, bees and butterflies that before the transformation had absolutely no reason to be there. It had all come together. 

Yet, I watched in vain for a bird.

The tranquility of my garden was amplified by the fact that I had created it myself. As the garden grew so would my delight in the transformation. Elation was almost overwhelming as I listened to the trickling water. And there I felt the familiar peace wash over me.

Out of nowhere a robin landed on the fountain. It took a drink, pivoted, and flew off over my head toward the dogwood. Wings stirred the air just inches from my face. I felt the rush. 

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum