A garden

My footprints tracked all around the dirt. Lisa hated this because when I came into the house, small clods dislodged from my sandals and ended up on the kitchen floor. It’s better if I’m barefoot walking around the budding plants. That way I can feel the earth tug at me. My toes sink into the mud surrounding puddles of water made by the hose I used to spray the leafy creatures, whose limbs produce the leaves of a salad I’ll make for dinner. Spring weather gave way to summer heat. The sun’s rays puncture holes into green waving arms. I heard dad say, “go water the garden. Weed the garden. You want to have something good to eat? A decent salad? Corn on the cob. Cucumbers (pickles) to soak in vinegar.” Those tangy tomatillos and cilantro enhance the flavors, the onions that make me shed tears, and juicy green and Roma tomatoes carry a fresh scent. Eating straight off the vine gave me a sense their life was filling mine. Veggies from the store don’t compare. Juices roll down from cut vines, disconnected, severed from the life force that pulses through the soil, the mud that Lisa doesn’t want on our kitchen floor. In a way, you could see why the good Lord said He created us in his image, fashioned out of clay. During planting season, I could hold dozens of small seeds in my hand. Small sprouts grew into large stalks, sprawling and crawling across the garden floor. I draw sustenance, as we all do from the rows of teeming life. His breath, the wind blows kindly, mercifully, inflating our senses. Rain, storms, create crevices. Like blood from sacrifice, it pours into the larger garden, the promised land, the promise of progress, each human being dipping their hands into a trough full of water, which flows out of bowed pipes and streams down into the rows of amber grain. A spider crawls over a clod. An orange-and-black beetle darts up out of nowhere, along the edge of a dirt clod, which must seem like a steep mountain ridge. A rattle snake rests on the road, half coiled, hidden in the heat waves, the sunken tire tracks, his forked tongue checking to see if I’ll pass. He does his job awaiting the rodents that like to steal snacks from the garden. Worms poke up from the upturned soil. My dad’s voice rings true again: “Save those night crawlers for fishin’.” He’s right. Rainbow trout from the lake goes well with a garden salad. My hands dig into the soil, noticing the coolness beneath the flaky crust crumbling to dust. What must it be like within these layers, hidden from my sight? Roots take hold, with as much purpose as the world above. Squatting at first, then falling to my knees, I want to dive deeper into a feeling of oneness, to see glimpses of our origins—all of us. Finally, I pull the straw hat tighter around my head, as the ball of fire moves across the sky, and the shadows with it. My bronze skin warms and darkens. Above the shorts sleeves of a blue plaid shirt, a distinct line has formed to reveal the faded color of winter, pale and bleached. I rise to my feet again, picking up the handle of a wood-splintered hoe from a nearby patch of Buffalo grass, one I use to scrape away the weeds that seem eager, maybe jealous, of their favored rivals. Under foot, they bite back—thorny goat heads sink into my soles, a small price to pay for stealing their domain, extricating them to the gravel road, a place of exile. They’ll be back within days. I explain to them how it is a small patch I’ve claimed for the few short months of summer, and how if they choose, find a place across the road on the prairie. Life there roams free, beholden to laws of nature, where life can be glorious and fleeting. There’s death, decay sans my willingness to water them. It can be a desert for the soul, where one withers and falls, another rises to take its place, sucking on the marrow of rotting limbs. Harvest can be like that, but today, that’s weeks away. Today, I use my tools, my weapons to hold the encroaching unpredictable wildness at bay. The random growth seems less a worry as dark, storm clouds gather overhead. Rainbows form from the warning spits, shaped like the metal pipes sucking up the swelling water from winding ditches, keeps the small rivers flowing, like the blood coursing through my veins, feeding the grains, that in turn, feed me—to keep me alive, my heart beating, my lungs taking in the rich country air, my thirst quenched by the streams and rivers, the overflowing reservoirs. The garden represents the rhythm of my heart. Because of it, I understand creation, the reason for artifice, which reflects purpose, a sort of meaning to life, which must be honored, revered, not rejected, ignored, or feared. If you understand, correctly, the garden connects me to me.

Published by: frankmarquezwritings

I'm a writer, and have been for most of my adult life. Without making this sound like a resume, I wrote creatively in college, dabbling in poetry, short stories and play writing. Later, I became a journalist, public affairs specialist, copy editor and eventually a guy who ran his own newspaper. Now, I'm back to letting my imagination run wild in some new creations including a science-fiction novel. Somehow, I also managed to teach English to high school kids, and roam the battlefields of Afghanistan as a field historian. Field historian may be a misnomer considering all I did was write abstracts summarizing military unit profiles and missions that included hundreds of interviews of troops and contractors in combat. I grew up in a small town called Gering, Nebraska, before escaping to Pomona, California, where I spent my last two years of high school, graduating from Ganesha High School in 1983. I have a Bachelors in English from the University of La Verne (1987), and a Masters in Education from UNLV (2007). In between, I worked for government - the Army and TSA. I served tours in Panama, D.C., and Tokyo, all thanks to a teacher who encouraged me to see the world before I settled down. As hobbies, I run, hike and bicycle long distances. I have also been known to surf and ski. I now live in my hometown after moving back in June 2015. I get to see family on a regular basis, breath fresh air, and not have to ride the D.C. metro or get stuck in traffic. In fact, I ride my bicycle whenever I can. I'm happily married to my wife Lisa, and we watch over a pack of fur babies, our dog Charley, and three cats Spike, Bootsy, and Franky (his shelter name). If you should ever visit me in west Nebraska, be prepared to feast your eyes on paradise.

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