A riot of color welcomed me, and a quiet cacophony of hummingbirds and bees, butterflies, other little things come to get drunk on flower sperm and help keep the vibe alive. I was there to see it for her, to relieve some of the pressure of maintaining a garden, of dealing with glaucoma, of not being able to see the finer details anymore.
She was something of a hedge witch though. She knew where she’d planted things, could still see when the deer had helped themselves to the boneset, knew when it was time to prune so plants had more energy to regenerate. She had me wage war on the anemones, the beautiful white flowers that built networks just under the surface of the soil and spread like a California wildfire. This war, this endless war, had me returning each week to listen to the sounds of the wind in the poplars, to uncover beetle nests with delight, to run to her like a child because I’d found the first monarch caterpillar of the season and it was eating something other than milkweed.
What was this plant, I wondered? She held it close and then far, then sniffed at it, closing the worse of her two eyes in hopes of catching a clearer glimpse.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”
I was on the clock, so sharing wonder was as far as I could digress. I’d left my phone in the car, the one with the plant ID app. She would have been a bit disgusted, I think, had I consulted it first, a bit angry with everything, the kids these days, kids being relative since there I stood at nearly fifty, wide-eyed with wonder at a caterpillar, holding it out to my 74-year-old friend.
I was still young, to her. Though mine, too, were beginning their decline, I could still be her eyes, so I needed to be good at it. I pinched a sprig and put it between the pages of a book, the book I’m reading, the book I can read. I would look it up later, come up with a way to tell her how I found my way to it.
She was already losing so much magick, so much magick. I hoped that after I left, she sat and looked at the shapes I’d created as I cleaned up the beds and gave the plants room to breathe. I hoped that she sat there and listened to the music—the wind in the poplars, all the sweet pollinators who’d come to her oasis, the offering her garden gave her in exchange for the love she gave it, for the love that I, through proxy, now continued.