Professional gardener, poet, essayist, and GardenRant reader Charles Goodrich has sent me two collections of his work: The Insects of South Corvallis, and now a short and lovely collection called Heavy Mulching: Eleven Dispatches from the Garden. Goodrich is program director of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word at Oregon State University, and his own work has been read by Garrison Keillor on his public radio program The Writers Almanac.
He manages to do what I think all good garden writing should do, which is to treat the garden as part of some larger whole, not as an isolated experience involving fall pruning or spring color. It’s all connected, and it’s all metaphorical, but he manages to pull it off in a way that is always unexpected and surprising.
Charles graciously agreed to let me share some of his fine work here, and if you’d like to read more, contact him through his website about getting hold of his books. The first is from Heavy Mulching, the second from Insects of South Corvallis.
Sixteen years old and crippled with arthritis, she couldn’t have
weighed more than a half gallon of milk. Her cloudy eyes oozed a milky
fluid. We talked about putting her down, but if you scratched her
behind the ear, she would purr until she couldn’t catch a breath. And
she’d still hobble over to the dish for her kibbles.
This morning, I found her on her pillow, cold and empty, lighter than a
bird. My wife wrapped her in a scrap of wool tartan, and I went to dig
a grave between the lilacs. My first shovel of earth came up full of
new potatoes, the size of eggs.
I know nothing about the transmigration of souls, but I
made potato salad for supper, and we talked about what kind of bird a
cat might become.
Vagabonds, hobos, they trundle in
through a crack in the wall by the back door
and congregate under the washing machine
to drink soapy drainwater.
I’m not running a bug hotel. My home
is no flophouse for backyard dropouts.
But these folks are easy company.
They aren’t evangelists
reveling all night in confessional raptures
or teenage sons of bankers
cranking stereos and snorting coke.
They aren’t revolutionaries or reactionaries,
atheists, pagans or co-dependents.
They’re just little bugs
who’ve seen the world some
and like to swap stories around the floor drain.