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Aerial view of garden

Tiger Eye Sumac


Tiger Sumac








As I lay my 70th or 80th concrete block today, I recalled Mark Antony’s soliloquy from Julius Ceaser:

“The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.”


I only knew it because I memorized it in high-school for Sister Hugo. It must have made quite an impression because I can rattle at least half of it off on the spur of the moment. It’s the one beginning with, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…” And that’s only one of several that have stuck with me all these years; To be or not to be, that is the question whether tis nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…; Fie ‘ont fie, tis an unweeded garden that goes to seed, things rank and gross in nature possess it dearly…; What a piece of work is man, how noble in…;

Anyway, in this case, I felt like, in retrospect that my little project to be accomplished in evenings and every other weekend, was far too ambitious, and grievously hath I answer’d it.

For three weeks now, I’ve had a Tiger-Eye Sumac sitting in the driveway, slowly dying despite my ministrations and today it finally found a home:

It will have a mature height of 5-6′, and there is a matching Sumac across the head of the waterfall that is three years old, and of the approximate size of the one I just planted.

At least I haven’t had any more leg cramps. On the third night of my “vacation”, during which I logged four consecutive days of hard physical labor, I awoke at two in the morning with an ice-pic sticking in my quadriceps muscle from the front side and sticking out the hamstrings on the back side. I could barely get out of bed. When I did, the pain was so intense couldn’t tell where the doorway was to the bathroom or to the living room and I stumbled around, dizzy and not sure if I was dying or not. I couldn’t even say I was leaving the world with a sense of satisfaction, given my sadistic suffering torture I’d subjected myself to in the garden–my only consolation that came to mind was that it would soon be over. But then I found the door, then the kitchen, and chugged down a  bottle of Gatorade; and slowly, the ice-pic was withdrawn like the door of an iron maiden opening and I was made whole.

Three weeks or so into this, I am happy to say that everything seems to be lining up so perfectly that it is as though I drew up a plan with carefully measured elevations and laser site lines and so on and so on; but of course I did not. I laid those first rows of blocks and poured 1500 lbs. of concrete with a wild abandon and nothing more than a vision in my head. As it turned out, they are exactly where they need to be and of an elevation not off more than a quarter inch, easily withing the margin of mortar (type N). I can’t believe it. It’s a goddam miracle, and thank God for miracles, which I don’t doubt in the least having experienced them personally a number times, notwithstanding this last.