Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Great Sage

A lady in a grocery store once told me “your garden is a reflection of your heart.” How could I know I would, in the cereal isle, meet one of the great sages of our day? Well, of course I wanted to have a beautiful heart so ever since I have been devoted to my garden, turning up the hardened rocky soil, the thorny weeds, and the disarray and replacing them with a supple grass, grapes, tomatoes, plums, peaches, strawberries, bright flowers, and figs. (In a side note I always stayed away from the lemons and limes – nobody could accuse me of a sour heart) I even tore down the apple tree when it refused, on threat of death, to produce a sweet fruit.

So you can understand my embarrassment for my neighbor who has more of a barren wasteland than a garden. What a sad sad glimpse into the poor man’s heart. I could bore you with the details of his life, bemoan you with the reasons why he has turned into such a miserable and slovenly man. Instead I will merely give you a glimpse of his garden and allow you to see all that for yourself. Do you see the way his only tree, some wild oak that was standing when he bought the place, has a mold growing on the north side? It’s that greenish-blue hue. The fallen branches lying on the ground like forgotten soldiers. Dandelion springs shooting up like metaphors in a short story. I walked out this morning and saw three tumbleweeds lying about, as if attracted to this mess and needing to be a part of it. I have no doubt that they rolled there on their own free will.

My kingdom for a brick! Or at least a stack of bricks that could separate me from this abomination. Bricks and maybe some cement to glue them together. And some guy (or gal) willing to form those bricks into a wall.

Instead the chain link fence allows me perfect view into his heart of hearts. Take this morning for example. I walk out into my garden and he’s out there with his dog (I won’t go into details about what his dog adds to his garden) and a Frisbee. I’m pruning and shearing and picking and weeding. He’s jumping and laughing and playing and the dog is running and jumping and chasing.

“Hay Richard!” I shout over the fence. I’ll use “Richard” because I want to protect his identity, cause his actual name is Dick.

“What’s up, my man?” he stops what he is doing and walks over to the fence.

He’s never listened to me about this before but I try and try again. “The yard is looking a little bit ratty today. Starting a Tumbleweed collection?” I figure humor may be the best route.

“No, man,” he says, “but ain’t they cool look’n? All round and brown and ready to roll. Say, you wouldn’t happen to have some extra plums, would ya?” I hand him a basket from over the fence that has a little bit of everything. Maybe it will inspire him. “Hay man, I’m super surprised that you don’t own a dog.”

I’d never owned a dog. I told him so.

“But a dog completes you man. A dog is what can make a person whole.”

I ran these words through my head. A…dog…completes…you. I’d never thought about it before. I had a great heart but I knew I was missing something.

Suddenly I was bitter, resentful, and envious. Here was my neighbor, who had been complete this whole time, even if he had such an ugly heart, and there I was, next to him, incomplete, not even a whole man. I felt ashamed.

Nobody would be able to accuse me of being incomplete. The great sage has spoken. It was time to get a dog.

-Steven Mast

1 comment:

Brihack said...


Well written.

Great character!