Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Circle of life -

Size matters. Or mattered to me as a young girl.

When living in NJ from ages 4 - 12 we lived about a half hour outside the city on an acre of woods. Yes, an acre ,,, also known as a kingdom, or princessdom, as the case may be. There were some strict rules regarding the access to and exploration of said woods ... as in I literally could not cross the line.

The line was actually the curve of the long gravel driveway which divided my backyard into unequal thirds: "the circle, the backyard, and the woods." I can't remember crossing the driveway by myself until I was at least ten. My mother never accompanied me on my jaunts across the line into the backyard and/or woods. It was my father who was my companion and guide. Being the early 60's this makes sense. My mom was probably in the kitchen whipping up some meatloaf and mashed potatoes (one green vegetable, one yellow) while my dad was in charge of All Things Lawn and allowed me to go into the backyard with him when he was cutting the "grass" which were really assorted weeds. The true grooming only took place within the sacred circle.

The circle itself wasn't even a circle, but rather a semi-circle immediately to the back of our house. It was manicured to within an inch of its life and was bordered on the driveway by a "garden" resplendent with ginko trees and perennials. To this day I can't pass a ginko without being transported to my back yard in New Jersey and have been known to pluck a ginko leaf from along the streets of downtown Chicago and sigh, "OOOH, a GINKO!" Because despite the fact that I am not a Fan of the Ornamental, ginko trees fill me with longing for New Jersey where Real Housewives did the laundry and took care of their children, and Real Husbands worn suits and ties, and took the train to work. It was within this very border that I fell in love with gardening and perennials, and harvested my first vegetables. I learned about co-planting and that marigolds had a purpose in life. I watched big fat black ants die because of their love of peonies. I had my first camping adventure there, stepped on my first slug there, and caught fireflies in old mayonnaise jars because everyone recycled by reusing. The circle was the first thing I saw when pulling up my roller shade in the morning, and the last thing I saw when pulling it down at night.

I loved it, and I hated it ... my perfect prison.

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