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The Thaddeus Gazette

My Secret Garden

If you're human, and I sure am, you may have had some variant on this dream: you're in your house, or a house that's designated as yours for the purposes of the dream's narrative, or possibly some house you used to live in, and you open a closet door or go into the kitchen or down in the basement or up into the dusty cobwebby attic that smells like the past, and you find that contrary to your expectations this house in your dream is way bigger and more complicated than you thought, bigger and more complicated with lots of extra rooms and hallways and staircases, and this situation, far from confusing or frightening you, gives you an amazing sense of delight and excitement at what might be waiting along those corridors or behind those innumerable doors, an almost transcendent excitement that lingers, instantly nostalgic, after your inevitable waking back into your own dull, predictable, limited domicile.

Those of a philosophical bent, and I sure am, might bend philosophically about such a vision, investing it with symbolism regarding hidden recesses of the mind or the Unconscious or such. More practical individuals, on the other hand, might just wish that stuff like that actually happened out here in the daylight every once in a while.

Well folks, I'm here to tell you that it does. Out here in the daylight. Every once in a while.

It all started, as so many things do, from needing to lose a little weight. Hey, don't we all? I'd challenged myself to the New Year's Ambition (better an ambition unfulfilled than a resolution broken any year) of exercising every day. I'd even scrounged a stationary bike from the 18th Avenue Southwest Free Box (aka the curb), and while the snows of January lingered I spent 20 minutes each morning gazing out at my back yard and listening to NPR or whatever internet radio I fancied (for what it's worth, internet radio is the real purpose of iTunes, and all that downloading stuff is a waste of money) and pumping away on my aerobicycle.

Naturally and inevitably, such shining intentions tarnish in the corrosive atmosphere of dull repetition, and with each passing day I became more motivated to do something useful with all those ergs I was sweating out. And directly downslope from me, plainly visible from my perch atop my motionless steed, was a project simply oozing with potential: my treehouse.

I'd begun and postponed building a treehouse on a suitable cedar in the back yard innumerable times, most recently getting the tree trimmed and throwing an old hunk of deck onto the main support limbs before other duties intervened. Functional enough — I'd been up several times to contemplate the horizon at the end of day. But now I wanted something more picturesque to stare at from my devotional saddle back in the house.

With the advent of some unseasonably warm and dry weather in mid February I made my move, setting about cutting back the blackberry brambles encroaching on my chosen site. Mine is a yard massively infested with the Protector of the Northwest, ever obdurate about being eradicated. I'd cleared most of the slope back in the early 00's, leaving a thin hedgerow to guard the fence-line and spare me the sight of the neighbors' disgustingly clean and cultivated yard, but here in this corner they still formed a formidable mass. Happily, stickerbush clearing was a suitable substitute for the morning Road To Nowhere, and as such I embraced it even as the thorny canes embraced me with sadistic affection.

After pulling down the old make-do platform, I propped up the supports with chunks of other trees I'd thinned out and built an exceedingly rustic lookout of branches and boughs. While it bore a closer resemblance to a frame for leaving corpses out for the vultures than a kid's fort, it was plenty strong enough for sunset duty, to which purpose I immediately put it. And it was while meditating on the passage of Ra, pleasantly exhausted from the day's labor, that I had my magic house moment.

I'm well aware of the virtues of gardening. Green thumbs run in my family (boy is that a tortured metaphor). And of late I'd been in contact with various neighborhood horticulturists ready and willing to share their knowledge of that most ancient of crafts. My only problem was I couldn't find any space to garden in, my front yard shaded out by a half-dozen well-established evergreens, with only a small patch sunny enough for Sandahbeth's container gardens of yore, the back taken up with fruit trees and retaining walls where not shaded out by the encroaching wilderness below or bordered by the southern hedge.

Or so I thought. Now, from a loftier perspective, I could see that the berry thicket I thought was only five or ten feet thick was thicker. A lot thicker. From tricks of perspective and general inattention I'd discounted a good 30 foot square hunk of land, extensively southern exposed and decidedly on my property, perfect for planting except for the minor detail of it being covered with blackberries thick as the proverbial hair on the back of the proverbial dog. My own personal Secret Garden, awaiting only my opening my eyes (or elevating them) to discover it.

Of course, having your universe reshuffle itself spontaneously even to such a limited extent as this brings with it all sorts of new dilemmas and duties, like how to strip thirty years of leftover brambles brae off the top of Old McThaddie's erstwhile Farm without ripping all the meat off one's bones in the process, not to mention what to do with the resulting slab of dirt once one has. But that's not a problem I have to solve just yet — the rains are back, and I'm content to pedal and fondly observe the scraggly domain that chance and opportunity have offered me. At least I'm keeping up with my exercise.

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