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Winter Dreaming

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Wednesday, 4 April 2001

For years before I cleared out the hedgerow between the back of our yard and Pearl Russell’s, I dreamed of removing the ugly jungle of weeds and scrubby trees there. Finally the Garden Troopers and I dug up the mess — with a little help from a backhoe on the elm roots — and by the fall of ‘98 I had a piece of cleared dirt about forty feet long and ten feet wide. A blank canvas.

All that winter I would stand and gaze out the window, looking at the slope of the land there, the perspective I saw from at the house, the relationship of the space with the big garden I already had in the center of my yard, the relationship with Pearl’s vegetable garden on the other side. Did I want a privacy screen between the two yards, enclosing my garden in a sheltered space? Or did I like the uninterrupted, neighborly sweep of the back yards as one became the next down the street, sheltered from the West wind by the tall pines of Howard Park behind us?

I mused on the Feng Shui. This is a Chinese term, pronounced “fung shway,” that means the flow of energy in space. For example with the blank canvas in the back of my yard, the eye wandered out of the yard as though a black hole there pulled it out. But Feng Shui affects more than the eye. If the front door of a house is has no path up to it, looking at it we get a gut impression that the house has no solid connection to the world.

When the snow was gone I sculpted two low terraces to level the beds on the hill, each held up by a row of rocks lovingly fitted together. The rocks ran in slightly different s-curves, which gave the design more gracefulness and life than straight lines would have. And most important, they led one — eye, foot and curiosity — back into the yard, tying together the new area and the old.

If it hadn’t been for the time I spent dreaming that winter, I would have put in straight lines. I’m glad I took my time. At the top of the terraces I’ve planted two large shrubs — my ‘Ballerina’ rose and an Oak-leaf Hydrangea — but I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll fill the space with tall things. I will see how these two look, how they grow, and do more winter dreaming on the question.

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark