Been doing an awful lot of gardening lately, followed by an awful lot of twilight wanders through the cool evening air. It’s been a banner year for fireflies, and the sight of them flashing and darting amid the undergrowth never fails to make me clap my hands with delight.
Which startles them, of course. Freezes them into motionless terror, no doubt. But only for a moment.
Because after a moment’s darkness, they come back. They always come back.
The gardening has been a bit of a surprise to me. Oh, I know, I’ve been posting pictures of my so-called “garden” on this blog for years now, almost since the very beginning. But I never really thought of myself as a “gardener” per se.
I thought of myself as somebody who occasionally “threw down” wildflower seeds. Who neglected weeding in the name of “biodiversity.” Who cheered on “invasive species” as merely plants who were finally pulling some weight around here for a change.
In short, I was generally more likely to call my little acre a “yard” rather than a “garden.” I had done nothing, I felt, to earn the distinction.
Well, this year all that has changed.
I spent the last week or so putting about fifty different new plants into my very small yard. Which was followed, naturally, by about one metric OHMYGOD of mulch. And capped off with two brand new, perfectly handmade Adirondack chairs, poised just at the top of a small rise with a view through the trees to the river beyond.
This is an excellent thing.
Fifty different plants, you say? Why, yes. Something like that, at least. I sort of lost count.
Let’s see, there’s now:
- Woodland Phlox
- Cardinal flowers
- Foxgloves (which make me think of Agatha Christie every time)
- Purple Coneflowers
- Russian Sage
- New England Asters
- Creeping Thyme
…and more varieties of dazzlingly showy day lilies than you’d even believe if I told you.
It was the melange of day lilies that finally did me in. I ordered a little variety pack of about 15 from this fabulous organic day lily farm in Vermont that has all of the most spectacular kinds of day lily that will make you forget all about those ubiquitous orange things on the side of the road. But they apparently take that sort of order and interpret it as a very loose “baker’s dozen,” because when the box arrived I found myself with upwards of 30 different plants.
Oh my god, she exclaimed, opening the cardboard crate which sealed her doom. Oh my stars and garters, that’s a lot of day lilies.
And of course they arrived the very day after I came down with the worst kind of early summer cold. The kind that keeps you in bed for three days, and then keeps you moaning on the couch for the rest of the week.
But I had scads and scads of planting to do, so I gobbled down some Advil and I got down to work, by gum.
And it’s like cleaning your house, apparently. Once you clean one bit, you realize that all you’ve done is throw the rest of the place into such awful, stark relief that you now have to clean the closest adjacent bit, and then the bit closest to that, and so on.
It kind of got completely out of hand, is what I am trying to say.
But now I have two wide, curving arcs of carefully planted day lilies (which look so much like I stuck a bunch of scallions into the ground in a fit of culinary optimism, it’s hilarious) surrounding a wee little enclave of mulch in which sits my two slouchy wooden chairs. Behind me sit the raspberries, which (speaking of fits of optimism) look like they might even bear fruit in their very first year. Ahead of me lie the wildflowers, heathers, and roses which you already know all about.
And when night falls, every single inch of the place becomes a goddamn discotheque for fireflies.
And honey, they are looking for love.
To give them their privacy, and because I needed to stretch my legs after another full day of manic gardening, I went a little further afield than usual in my twilight meanderings this evening, taking the liberty of strolling up and down my quiet little street to see if my neighbors were similarly blessed with fireflies and gardening mania.
Let’s just say I’m far from alone in my afflictions.
As the evening went on and darkness gathered ever closer about me, I tilted my head up to the sky. The fireflies, it seemed, were retreating with the light up into the treetops, flickering and dancing among the waving pine boughs in the gentle summer breeze. As they disappeared, one by one, stars appeared behind them to take their place in the evening sky.
And I said to myself, This, right here? This is pretty great.
And if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
(With thanks to Kurt Vonnegut.)