Short Stories & Essays

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Shoulders back, foot atop a whale bone. She takes the feathered gloves and puts them on her hands. They are shorter than she would have imagined, a hawk’s feathers: Brown, chocolate, gold. Stripes play out across her fingers. She does not want to think of the reason why the hawk is only feathers now.

What is it that was so special about that day—we were three generations gardening. Sowing seeds, getting dirty, eating, drinking and laughing. We were mother, daughter, and granddaughter. Not just 3 generations, but three generations of women, and like life itself, we were represented in all our aspects: willowy young tree, just starting to form, with roots easing into the warm soil, head facing to the sun. The mature tree, trunk thick and strong, branches out to protect and shelter. And finally, the older tree, trunk gnarled, but wise, whispering secrets of the winds.

It was 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, and I was headed down to Lawndale to begin the garden installation. The sun was just glowing over the horizon and there was no one on the freeway. The air smelled fresh and cool, my spirit bubbling like champagne. It was a perfect day to break ground.

It is the blue hour, and you are walking down the street, when suddenly your nostrils flare as some exotic scent drifts in on a breeze. In that moment, you are captivated and begin the search for the elusive scent. You walk down one street and then another, the scent growing stronger, until you turn the corner, and there it is: an orange tree in full bloom. You take a deep breath, drawing the smell deep into your lungs, and for a few minutes it is just you, the darkening sky, and the sweet smell of the blossoms.

I was standing at my sink the other morning, when I saw it: this beautiful little bird, with black and white markings and a stunning yellow throat. It flitted about the garden for a few minutes before it disappeared into my grapefruit tree. Now, I don’t know what kind of bird it was, but I do know that seeing that bird absolutely delighted me. And so, I wanted to share with you some things you can do to invite birds into your own garden.

He stands in line, tall, thin, elderly, nondescript. He blends into the magazine rack. He stands there with three items, waiting to check out. Behind him steps a woman with a cart full of groceries and a baby in her arms. The man shyly offers her his place. “Why don’t you go next?”

“Really? Oh, thank you,” says the woman, “that’s very sweet of you.”

Red sneakers. I had never worn red sneakers until that fateful day. Red was daring, dangerous, called attention to itself. I never wore red sneakers. I was much more comfortable with white ones, or even black ones. Those allowed me to slide unobtrusively across the road with no one noticing.

I remember being 6 years old and eating dirt. It had just rained, and the smell of the wet soil, the sound of the moisture dripping off the leaves was so intoxicating I just wanted to be a part of it. One way I could think of to feel that connectedness was to eat the dirt. As I crunched away on a small handful, I realized it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, but the longing I felt left its mark, and today I am here at UCLA studying landscape architecture.

March in Yosemite, cold but still. Late at night, flat on my back. Looking up at the sky with my best friend Mary Mccaughan. I feel the small pebbles against my back, feel the cold creeping up thru my parka and pants, but I do not move – do not dare to move – the vision is too intoxicating.

It wasn’t so long ago that I lay on a blanket in the grass, under the filtered shade of our Acacia trees, my daughter curled up beside me on a pillow. And there I made up a story for her, “Beatrice’s Britches’. It was a silly story about a brave young girl who was not allowed to wear britches just because she was a girl, and all the trouble she got into when she didn’t listen.

Poetic Plantings
Landscape Design