Poetry in the garden

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(Host) Commentator Edith Hunter recalls favorite poems as she watches the seasons change in her garden.

(Hunter) I will always be thankful that early in life I was encouraged to commit so much poetry to memory. Out in my early fall vegetable garden I was harvesting some of the dill that had planted itself in the now-weed-filled asparagus bed. I selected the darkest brown heads and cut them off with a pair of scissors. Careful not to shake the dill seeds loose, I placed them in a lined basket.

Suddenly something slithered between my feet and disappeared into the tall feathery asparagus.

“But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.”

“Zero at the bone” – Emily Dickinson’s perfect description of our automatic reaction to a chance encounter with a snake.

I listened to the melody of fall sounds as I pulled up some beets. Part of the music came from a fat, black cricket. With David Morton’s words in mind, I reminded him:

“Not you alone importunate brother
Singing, and so seeming bold.
Did you but guess, there’s many another
Sings against the coming cold.”

Before going to the other end of the garden I decided to check on the parsely worm. Sammy had discovered the mature yellow, green, and black caterpillar on the inside of the garden gate a week ago. I could see then that it had already put down its pad prior to making its chrysalis and suggested that we leave it alone. Sure enough, mimicing the color of the wooden fence, the chrysalis hung suspended by its silken belt. It will probably winter there and wait until spring to come out as the black swallowtail butterfly.

I have chairs placed strategically at both ends of my 100 x 80 foot garden. With a pail of weeds gathered for the chickens, and my basket now full of tomatoes, squash, beets, lettuce, eggplant, stringbeans, cucumbers, corn and the dill, I rested and savored the sights and sounds of a September garden. How perfectly Keats characterized this time of year:

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfullness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun….”

I returned to the house. The radio was on in the kitchen. Another bomb had gone off in Iraq, another house flattened in Palestine. The words of poet/theologian Georgia Harkness sprang unbidden to my mind:

“I listen to the agony of God
I who am warm,
Who never yet have lacked a sheltering home.
In dull alarm
The dispossessed of hut and farm
Aimless and ‘transient’ roam.”

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.

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