Literary Hook: ‘The Bliss We Followed’: Tending your garden in retirement

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

As spring turns to summer, gardens gather momentum. Rockford is known as the City of Gardens, so whether you tend your own garden or enjoy the pleasures of gardens of parks and neighbors, you might recognize the birds and flora of this poem.

One of the joys of retirement is having the time to tend your own garden. Perhaps this “return to the garden” has deeper meaning than just tending the soil. Being on your knees in the garden has a spiritual significance, too.

The Bliss We Followed

The hummingbird hovers
over ruby bergamot—
soft summer dusks.
Each day another swallowtail
floats by, lands on pink cone flowers
and milk pods.
A catbird meows
behind the lilacs—spring memory,
their heady, lavender blossoms.
At the suet a downy woodpecker
hangs upside-down,
the chickadee right-side-up.
We never lack for birds
here in the sanctuary garden,
where we have returned.
This must be the bliss we followed:
a garden, where I sing
evening song after dinner.
A garden where we sip
old vine Zinfandel and Primitivo
on a small deck surrounded by conifers.
Yes, this must be the bliss we followed:
a garden tumbling with Russian sage,
sprinkles and clumps of French lavender,
prairie grasses of every sort
grown round as hay stacks
spilling and exploding like fireworks.
Sparrows land on phlox.
Families of goldfinch pull out
sun flowers from feeders daily.
Saint Francis and Demeter dance
a two-step near the hostas.
Butter-and-eggs bloom on wispy stalks.
The cottage-bound cats curl,
sweet and strictly cloistered,
like Benedictine monks.
Indigo sky at night.
Venus ablaze, and always
the moon in her many corsets.
First published in Mid-America Review.

Christine Swanberg is a local author.

From the June 23-29, 2010 issue

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