To the Man Who Was to Be My Gardening Companion for Fifty Years

You used to love that I see the fierce beauty in a little chaos. I first cleared that web of woodiness cautiously. I pruned instead of hacked the curious entanglement of Greenbrier and Wisteria. The roots seemed to reach as deep as our own. Coiled arms weaved and roamed within a contained jungle; unaware of their confusion. Wherefrom were the clustered blooms and the source of those thorns? I trimmed the entwined vines and branches to create a negative space. The lofty window then was in view.

A too-early spring bestowed a lavender waterfall. You should have seen it. The Wisteria’s light-green leaves were infrequent, and the blooms hung like grape clusters. The pods of the flower were velvet, and when I ran my hand underneath them, they felt like delicate mala beads across my palm. The sweet smell of baby powder hung in the air, and I longed to be near them. I sat on the steps of my front porch to hold the impermanence of a Florida spring.

In the Fall, you came and took measure. We dug perfect beds in the sun. You replanted shy-yellow lilies. To flank a much-better laid path. But, the vines. Our bare limbs bled from thorns. We have to get at the roots, you said. You pulled hard and we cut underground. You wielded shovel and saw. To conquer Mount Parnassus’s Pythons. All roots were exposed and then gone.

Now the rusty swing squeaks in the nearby park. The squirrels’ throaty barks fall from the Laurel tree. A sliver of lavender peaks through pale- green buds on the spiraling vine that hugs the Crepe Myrtle trunk like a gentle rebel.

by Johanna Lane


The Voice of the Withlacoochee

To see colors along the Withlacoochee River, you must be there in the slanted light. Walk with her there. Let soft shoes touch the path like a shushing finger to the lips. Notice longleaf pine needles gilded from the sun’s glow. The sinking light unmasks a lapis sky. See the soppy, pine-needled path become maroon, like the underside of a great blue heron’s wing.

Don’t worry if you are out of step with your companion.

Separate the stiff palmetto fronds for her and step down to the riverbank. Don’t fall. Walk closely to the roots and stay on solid ground. As the sun descends, watch how the tannin-stained river appears copper. Be mindful of shin-high cypress knees, so you don’t trip. See them scattered like old faces in a crowd. Focus in on one. Study the intricate lines like those around our eyes and mouths. They reveal our sad and happy stories.

Imagine the deep, gentle flow of a raised river when you see high water lines on Cypress tree trunks. But the shallow reveals gnarled roots grasping the bank; its knuckles protrude and fingertips sink into the soil.

Plan to return. As the setting sun erases the lavender hues in browned grasses, recall what wasn’t said.

by Johanna Lane

Johanna is an adjunct instructor of English at Saint Leo University. She writes personal essays that focus on the diverse and complicated natural environment of Florida and how this can mirror the dynamics in our most intimate interpersonal relationships.

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