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Deep in the Green

Fungi on an old-growth tree in New Paltz, NY photo © Carol Bergman 

A garden is like the self. It has so many layers and winding paths, real or imagined, that it can never be known, completely, even by the most intimate of friends.

― Anne Raver, "Deep in the Green: An Exploration of Country Pleasures"


Deep in the green this morning, the air clear enough and cool enough to have a very early morning walk past farms, haystacks, the Minnewaska Ridge in the distance visible for the first time in weeks, and then visit with my friend Jo Ann who has offered me chard from her raised-bed vegetable garden. It's been netted top and bottom to avoid tick infestation, her husband Jeff assures me, but I've sprayed up before arriving anyway. I'm still a city girl, have always lived in apartments, and never even participated in an urban communal garden, though I have visited and admired many, both in the US and overseas. I have a green thumb for indoor plantings, though, and when I lived in London on the top floor of a Victorian house with a skylight streaming cloud-diffuse English sunlight onto the landing, the spider plants went wild. Chlorophytum Comosumis is their Latin name, and they are immigrants from Southern Africa apparently, naturalized plants that have contributed so much to our controlled indoor landscapes, an illusion that all is well with the landscape outside with its droughts, floods, smoke-filled air, and human malfeasance.


Until this week, the atmosphere in the mid-Hudson valley has been tropical, all flora and fungi abundant, a welcome side effect of our climate changed summer. Jo Ann's garden is no exception, but as we walk into her flower garden she complains that it needs weeding, that weeds have become abundant also. And what is a weed, exactly, I wonder? When did a plant become a weed? In what century? In what geothermic era?


The Weed Science Society of America—yes, there is a society for the study of weeds—defines a weed as a plant that is not wanted, that germinates constantly and invasively and without our consent. These weeds interfere with the plantings we have chosen to nurture and propagate, the vegetables and flowers we cultivate for our pleasure and nourishment. A metaphor, perhaps, for the invasive weeds in our body politic and continuing attempts to rid ourselves of them without poisoning ourselves.


But I digress. Let us return to Jo Ann's garden and her bounteous gift: two kinds of chard, basil, cucumber and a sweet yellow zucchini. The stir fry was delicious.

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