She was always working in the garden, until a young dog taught her how to really appreciate it.
I am determined to house train my new puppy. I take him outside several times a day, my pocket heavy with treats. I say "Hurry up!" as my training manual suggests so he will learn to relieve himself immediately upon hearing that phrase.
On a mission, I walk him down the path to my garden. So far he is in no hurry at all, despite my suggestions. Instead he sticks his nose in a clump of bee balm and sniffs. I pinch off a red fringed blossom and squeeze it in my hand, breathing in the sharp fragrance.
"Hurry up!" I coax as he meanders along the path, smelling the carmine-red spiraea and the tips of the lavender and the frothy yellow yarrow that spills over the path. Finally I give up and take a seat on the wooden bench my husband gave me a few years ago. It is the perfect accent piece for my garden, but to my knowledge, has never been used. I am glad to have a spot in the shade to wait. "Hurry up!" I say again as he wanders farther down the path.
I have spent countless hours in this garden, but I am always working on a project. I weed constantly. I keep the bird feeder full and the hydrangeas watered, and I spread pine straw mulch on a regular basis. When I look at my backyard, it is to see what needs replacing and what needs to be added.
This is the first time I've ever sat down and looked at my garden without criticism. I am still. Beside me, an oversized bumblebee trundles over a violet butterfly bush bloom. The bee clings, now upside down, to the conical blossom that has rolled over under the insect's weight. Undeterred, it continues its mission, frantically collecting pollen with what appears to be six hands.
There is a butterfly on another bloom, methodically opening and closing its brown and orange wings. I lean in closer and peer at his busy whirl of antennae as he vigorously sips up nectar. He seems completely unaware of me.
I am still. There is another bee so close to me I could touch it, but I notice that it looks different. Its tiny body is a soft mossy green, and it has a fan tail.
Suddenly I realize that it's not a bee at all, but a baby hummingbird. Its whirring wings make no noise, and I wonder if the motorized hum that grown hummingbirds make comes with age. I don't move as I watch it immerse most of its little torso into a single bloom of a vivid pink phlox. I listen hard to see if I can hear it. I can't.
Instead, I hear the trill of a bird from the woods, then a repetitive chirp-chirp-chirp of another, and then a frenzied twitter of what must be a flock of the same bird. I cannot see any of these birds, but know I am hearing different ones.
A goldfinch glides in for a perfect landing on the full feeder. He is bright crayon-yellow and pops out against the black sunflower seeds.
My puppy comes barreling down the path and jumps up on my lap, joyfully licking my chin. He has sniffed every flower and chased every bee and noticed every single thing in the garden. I glance at my watch and realize almost half an hour has passed, and I have no idea if my mission was accomplished or not. Still, I do not tell him to hurry up.
I continue to feel the vibration of the baby hummingbird just behind my ear, but I never hear a sound. The leaves rustle, and there is a late summer breeze on my face.
I think what a lovely spot I have in the world. I am thankful that my little dog has not learned how to "hurry up." I gaze out at the garden and think of all I would have missed if he had. I stroke my little dog's ear and wonder if that was his mission all along.