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Bogmoor, November 21, 2002

The garden looks pristine right now.
It is clean and tidy. I do not use these adjectives lightly. The garden looks likes this only a few days a year.

Because the leaves have been picked up, and most of the beds cut back and cleaned, all the structural lines of the garden reveal themselves once more, after having been covered with leaves. The borders are once again clearly defined. The bed edging is free of detritus. Its dark lines are clear and bold. The grass is green and free of leaves. This moment, around Thanksgiving, is an interregnum between fall and winter. It suddenly looks like last spring, or perhaps more accurately, looks like a foreshadowing of next spring. The garden is mostly without bloom or foliage.

It is the garden's autumnal moment. It is the day in the garden when the basic plan of it is clear again, defined, a moment to savor, a moment not to be missed. It is rare even in a well kept garden. It happens only twice a year.

In a few days the garden won't look like this. The rest of the leaves will fall. Detritus will come down and be blown into the edging. The pristine moment will have passed until late spring.

Almost exactly six months later is the other clean, pristine day in the garden. On that day, sometime in late spring, after the helicopters from the maple trees have been swept up, after the beds have been spring cleaned, and re-edged, after the summer mulch has been put down — shredded Hemlock or Sweet Peat — the garden will look clean and lean again, all its basic shapes defined without foliage or bloom. It is the garden's vernal moment.

These moments, in late autumn and in late spring, when the garden is cleanly and simply defined are when we see its bones, the structural elements that define the thing. Looking at it at these times is when we praise or damn what we have done, when we decide what to do next.

— T. McFaul, November, 2002

Copyright © 2002–2011, Thomas G. McFaul
Last modified: Wed May 11 13:32:05 EDT 2011
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