Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Wildflower Diaries: (1) Caring for Joy’s Garden…by Robert M. Katzman

First 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 on the 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 bright moist morning, after my vigilant patrol the night before.

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

As of September 26th, almost two months later, the one hundred and eight Pachysandra groundcover plants survived a sometimes parched Southern Wisconsin summer and are gradually sending out extending long arms of little leaves in all directions. Instead of small islands of green, it becomes possible to imagine a completed carpet of gentle green. The variations in height are enough to envision a shallow sea of life, covering black earth, preserving the moisture beneath the leaves.

That other nameless green groundcover I transplanted from the backyard to the front continued to live but not to spread, contrary to the gardner’s ambitions for Joy’s verdant garden. After meditating on what to do to complete the beauty I sought in my mind, I remembered that Monarch Butterflies are endangered, dying out and need a helping hand from thousands of individuals with little plots of land. I decided to join this noble union and collected a dozen mature splitting open pods from Milkweed plants all over Racine. Mlkweed plants are the preferred food for the Monarch caterpillars.

People usually see the seeds floating through the fall air like silky snowflakes, attaching to whatever they encounter: moist earth, clothing, animals…anything.  I opened the pods and rubbing the flat brown seeds between my thumb and fingers, let the now separated seeds from their white flight companions fall from my fingers and spread over the ground, which had been previously plowed by hand into many shallow furrows. I saturated the earth before, and then after all the seeds were distributed. Other more experienced gardeners–generous and kind people–have told me they will sprout in the spring. I will see if that happens. Hope so.

I saw that I never mentioned that I planted a Blazing Autumn Maple tree amoung the three plant areas surrounded by the red and white stone squares. It is about 25 feet high and will grow between 50 to 70 feet high, and the branches will grow wider, sheltering the ground. It has just turned bright red for the first time and the original leaves are turning brown, curling up and falling to the ground, where I will leave them to help feed the hungry earth below. The young tree will reach high toward the sky and maybe close enough for Joy to reach down to touch the leaves at the very top.

What a wonderful thought.

Now, I will wait for Spring.

Gardens need water, love, and patience.

Publishing News!

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998  (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.


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.

Comment by James Myles Payne

June 24, 2018 @ 1:18 pm

I enjoyed your activities, thoughts, feelings interwoven with your garden and plants. You were in Joy’s garden and you found life there for you. Beautiful.

Comment by Avi

June 24, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

Great writing Bob! You have a way with words and imagery. Fascinating!

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