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The Garden Blues of June

There’s been some unusual activity in the garden lately. A squirrel walked up to me as I sat still sipping coffee, looked me squarely in the eye and didn’t run away until I called his bluff. A pair of bluebirds, normally quite shy, are aggressively guarding the birdhouse they made into a home. They let that squirrel know it was time to move along, while given me a sideways glance to remind me there will be no eggs for breakfast for me today.

Speaking of blue, it’s almost blueberry season in New Hampshire and that means the return of catbirds, the little devils who gobble up ripening blueberries by the pint, usually just before harvest. In previous years I’d rig netting and chicken wire to hold them at bay, but they always seem to find a way to the fruit. This year no netting and only a half-hearted attempt to chase them away. After traveling for much of June I’m conceding the early harvest to nature. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the tomatoes later in the season. We all choose what we fight for in this world. Isn’t it funny how that changes season-to-season in our lives?

Earlier this morning I walked around the garden, seeing first-hand all the work I’ll need to do to set things straight. Nearing the fence, I spooked a large doe, who betrayed her position in her panic. I told her as her white tail bounced away that I’d never have seen her if she’d just waited a beat longer. Movement betrays, it’s only in stillness that we become one with the natural world. The doe had no use for my unsolicited advice.

The garden is neglected and mocks me my late return to tend it: “Too little, too late pal.” Such is the way, for stillness need not apply in the garden. But I’ve come to think of the garden differently this season. Or maybe just my position as head gardener. I’ve taken something of a sabbatical this year with more emphasis on the hardscape and less on the seasonal magic. Looking around, it feels foreign to me, this garden I’ve labored over for years. Thinking about the behavior of that squirrel and the doe, I wonder if they simply aren’t used to having someone linger in the garden anymore?

Gardens, like our lives, ebb and flow. In June 2022, when things are usually flowing, I feel an ebb. So much feels different this season, but the bluebirds remind me that change is inevitable. We either roll up our sleeves and get back to work or we wallow in the blue. Gardens frown upon the wallowing gardener, for the season—our season—isn’t over just yet. And so it must be that we get back to it once again.

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