It is said that a teacher will appear when you are ready to learn. My garden always seems to be there with my next instruction in life.
This past Sunday afternoon, soil had dried out a bit, the sun was out, and temperatures were shirt-sleeve. A perfect day to begin cleaning out debris and get ready for the coming spring show on my southern Indiana hillside.
Working my way along a path, I was pulling dead stems that marked last year's stand of tricyrtis. I was reaching in with gloved hand, repeatedly pulling multiple stems, and discarding them in a container.
An unexpected visitor
Well into clearing the brown stems. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I paused, and a small snake came into focus. He/she was as startled as I, for the head was up and that red tongue was working overtime.
Almost the same colors as his background, he was stretched out on the leaves in the afternoon sun. I know what a grouch I am when awakened from my nap, so I did a quick step back.
Intellectually I am aware of the many benefits of small garter snakes in my gardens. I just do not want to come upon one in that close proximity to my face and hands without knowing it is there. In fact, if I know where the snake is, I will definitely not be that close to it. Emotionally I am a great admirer from afar.
I moved on to the next job and returned later to see the snake had taken his afternoon nap elsewhere.
The early visit of a flying jewel
When I walked over to where my wife was working in her gardens, we both stopped and became still. A single black and yellow butterfly fluttered by almost at the end of our noses. It landed on a nearby early-flowering shrub, but by the time we caught up, the butterfly had moved on.
The sighting was fleeting, but we both talked of our experience for some minutes. We both wished good travels, and, we hoped, no freezing weather, until it gets where it needs to be -- for it seems far too early to see a butterfly in our area.
There is "excitement," and then there is excitement.
The excitement of the snake sighting was being startled with a tinge of fear. The butterfly was all about excitement, the sense of being startled accompanied with a sense of joy. Both experiences were valuable gifts I had not expected (especially the snake). My gardens just taught me the definition of serendipity.
Gene Bush, a nationally known garden writer, photographer, lecturer, and nursery owner, gardens on a shaded hillside in southern Indiana. His website is www.munchkinnursery.com. He also writes the Garden Clippin's Newsletter. To read more by Gene at Diggin' It, click here. Or follow him on Twitter.