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Volume 2, Issue 2
Summer 2006:

Fireflies and Fairies

Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2006 Summer; 2(2):a7

Photographer: Barry Penchansky
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Il faut cultiver notre jardin. —Voltaire

It was during dinner at the Morgan House that I overheard my wife remark: "Even at my age I still look for fairies under the leaves of my garden plants in the yard."

The four of us had just come from a matinee performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" at the Shakespeare and Company complex in Lenox. I'm not certain what prompted the comment about the fairies. After all, it wasn't "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream" that we saw. Still, it was not entirely out of place. Any performance of Shakespeare leaves a lingering spell in the air.

My wife's garden is rather extensive for our quarter-acre lot. The border beds are filled with hostas and ferns on one side and firebushes along the fence by the driveway. One bed in the back is filled with irises, while water lilies float leisurely in the adjacent small fish pond. Periwinkle borders the north side of the house; wild roses and a wisteria climb the turned white posts on the front porch.

Along the front beds you can find wild violets, Black-eyed Susans, Forget-Me-Nots, or Chinese Lanterns depending on the time of the summer season.

Here's the thing: almost none of these plants were bought. All were rooted from cuttings given by those mostly-elderly folks whom my wife has helped to care for over the years.

The Japanese maple — now thirty feet tall — grew from a tiny sapling that sprang up in the shade of the parent tree in the church sexton's yard across the street. The wild rose came from a cutting provided by the woman who used to be the crossing-guard at the local elementary school before she succumbed to liver cancer several years ago. The snowball bush was transplanted from the thicket in the yard of our former octogenarian neighbor, long since passed away.

A casual stroll around the garden will introduce you to reminders of many folks, most of whom are no longer sojourning in the land of the living. Touch the plant — stroke the leaves, feel the sharp pointed thorns. Smell the blossoms — the mock orange is particularly pungent in the spring. Watch the long-stemmed Day Lilies dance in the morning breeze — and those memories all come back.

You might say that we are surrounded by a great cloud of old friends who live on in the plantings in the garden.

If that be the case, it's a small wonder that on warm summer evenings, when the fireflies dance above the green stillness, you can see my wife bending down outside in the garden, peeking under the leaves, fully expecting to find a fairy or two.

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