A little girl was walking past our flower beds with her mother recently, when she stopped and pointed. “Mama, look,” she said, as a garden ornament slowly came to life for her. Like a tubby version of Botticelli’s Venus rising from the sea, Benjamin BadKitten stood up from his spot near the birdbath. This rare sighting — an actual appearance by my chief garden staffer in the garden — was part of a five-day span in which BBK finally earned professional recognition.
During that work week, he attended on-site meetings and stayed awake while I outlined our garden goals for the day. He lay on top of the weeds that I was trying to dig out from a fragile cluster of coreopsis, and sprawled beside me as I cut back bloomed-out plants to make room for the summer flowers. He enjoyed swishing his tail in my face as I knelt in a space too tight to avoid the inevitable tailspin of dust and leaves. My sidekick followed me to and from the compost pile each time I emptied my garden bucket.
When I moved to the backyard to dig a bed for some transplanted dianthus, he stayed on the job, supervising from his office in the shade of a hawthorn tree. He listened silently, in his bored, self-absorbed way, to my play-by-play of our afternoon’s projects, and he shut his green eyes but did not judge me outright when I described another fiasco in the vegetable patch. He can be a pain in the peony, but BBK is my best garden buddy. So, for the second time in 10 years, I have chosen Benjamin BadKitten as the Impetuous Gardener’s Employee of the Month. He wouldn’t want me to mention that he is my only employee, or that I set the performance bar so low that he could barely wedge the tip of his tail under it.
I write often about my Church of Dirt and Flowers as a place of joy and peace. It has also been my retreat in this unsettling summer, when every day I feel the weight of Wordsworth’s sonnet: “The world is too much with us.” My husband, Lee, and I continue to follow health guidelines related to the coronavirus. We spend nearly all our time at home, limiting contact with the world beyond our front door. I listen to the news and read three newspapers every day, and I often feel trapped in a hamster wheel of heartache and anxiety, frustration and fury. Lee is a patient counterbalance, but my daily soliloquies would wear anyone down. Self-imposed solitude has become unhealthy for me, and I needed to go out and be with other people occasionally. If I didn’t choose that path soon, I knew my free-form sense of dread would smother me.
So last Sunday evening, Lee and I joined about 20 other people for a spiritual gathering on the lawn of our church. Everyone was masked up, of course, kept a safe distance, and did not sing or pray aloud. It was enough to see smiling eyes above the masks, to hear a message of welcome and hope, and to listen to bright music of faith. Within that half hour of community, I found a precious, blessed gift: complete peace, outdoors at a church of light and grace.
Sydney Craft Rozen will be away from her desk and out in the garden through August. Her column will return in early September, when she hopes to report stellar news from her pumpkin patch. Email her at email@example.com.