Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

An Army of One: Caring for Joy’s Garden…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Existential Pets,Friendship & Compassion,Life & Death,Love and Romance,Trees,Wisconsin stories — Bob at 8:50 am on Sunday, July 30, 2017

Published July 30, 2017, © by Robert M. Katzman

Sometimes, in the cool night air I walk barefoot in the dark on the geometric red and white stone paths to inspect Joy’s Garden for evil invaders. All manner of uninvited plants seek to join the selected ones. They are unaware that a different bipeded specie’s resistance to them is constant and that pulled weeds, once sun-dried, become kindling for our hungry backyard brick fireplace.

There are five blossoming brooding Burning Bushes on the east and west sides of the little garden, to contribute to my defenses. Soon to be a fiery glowing red, Moses would be proud. But also, he wouldn’t wonder why there were ten of them. Subtly, but meaningfully to me, they send two messages. I let them speak for themselves.

I transplanted a ground cover plant named Bishop’s Weed from the backyard to the front and it is prospering, pale green leaves with off-white variegated edging turn their happy faces to the sun each morning, then like sheep, following as it moves west. Joy’s maiden name was Bishop, so, yeah, for me a charming coincidence. 

I recently created another stone walkway to separate a different backyard groundcover plant. The red squares seem heavier. Not being Joy, I don’t know the name of every living thing that grows, flies, runs or swims. But I cope. Intent matters, as does attention to minute detail. And water. But tonight, my lower back and I are not on speaking terms.

The new thing has no roots and just lies atop the dirt, connected with white shoots that form new leaves, which then shield them from the sun. The leaves are pretty and dense, and when I lifted them up to look for their roots, they came up all connected like a carpet, green on top, white underneath. I separated about a square yard of it, gently tugged it free from the rest, carried them all to the front, soaked the area where they would go–guessing because that’s how I’ve done everything–laid them neatly, evenly atop the wet earth, sprinkled some mulch here and there on top of that and a little wet dirt, too, just to see what might happen, because they don’t “take root”.

That was two days ago. As of this sunny Sunday, I saw that a portion of it is thriving. So I uncovered much of the other partly buried parts and discovered almost all of it is still green and possibly healthy. There is a fascination for me in caring for living, growing and responsive life.

My plants don’t talk to me, but they are quite aware of my relentless execution of their determined invaders competing for their space, light and sun. I believe there is a collective unspoken appreciation of my grunting efforts on their behalf, and their response is to gradually spread over the black earth, letting me see their multicolored shining faces, and I take that as quite enough to keep me going.

Do I think Joy knows, cares or watches any of this? How could I? Should I? But that spiritual concern is superseded by the daily needs of the defenseless living plants who quietly greet me each morning, after vigilant my midnight patrols the night before.

Gardeners must assume their plants’ silence doesn’t mean they don’t feel collective appreciation. I won’t always be their caretaker, but for now, I am.


Comments welcome. Unless you represent the Crab Grass lobby. Then, well you can go to hell!

 Robert M. Katzman

Poet & Storyteller for hire for organizations, schools or private events
No fiction/Gritty Urban Perspective
www.DifferentSlants.com to view recent and older examples of my work


Comment by Herb Berman

July 30, 2017 @ 10:42 am

Beautiful story, Bob.

Comment by B

July 30, 2017 @ 5:15 pm


Comment by Charlie Newman

July 30, 2017 @ 6:34 pm

beautifully said…as always, Bob

Comment by Brad Dechter

July 31, 2017 @ 8:02 am

Nice story, but I would tell you the plants are speaking to you. You need to find a different way of listening. With each healthy day, they are telling you”You’ve done it Bob. You’re making a difference. Thank you for helping us be all that we can be!”
Listen closely….

Comment by Melanie

July 31, 2017 @ 7:16 pm

Like Brad, I think they are speaking in their language, a pity we don’t speak it. I listened a few weeks back to a female goldfinch perched on a branch in my backyard go on and on, speaking, but also in a language I didn’t understand, but I was uplifted by her insistence on spending her time talking to me. They are communicating by being there and allowing us in their world.

Comment by Don Larson

August 1, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

Hi Bob,

Some types of communication are unspoken.

While not exactly in sync with the subject of your story, my webpage link discusses “Unspoken Expectations” in human terms.


Comment by Elaine

August 2, 2017 @ 6:16 am

That’s sweet Bro Bob….and gardening is sooooo therapeutic, for sure! I’m reminded of the Hebrew word for garden, that being ‘gan’. Spelled with the letters gimmel and nun.
Gimmel means to raise up, and nun means life….so gan, means to raise up life. Your garden IS responding to you in it’s brilliantly colorful foliage & blossoms…happily thriving in sheer JOY!!! Shalom.

Comment by David Griesemer

August 3, 2017 @ 4:04 am

“I long for Jeanie with the daydawn smile
Radiant in gladness warm with winning guile…
Now the nodding wild flowers may wither on the shore
while her gentle fingers will cull them no more…
I long for Jeanie and my heart bows low
Never more to find her where the bright waters flow.”
Bob has done what Stephen Foster could not, convinced the plants to honor Joy by living instead of dying. As does he.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>