Uncle Steve’s garden stretched before me like Adam’s Eden. Every kind of editable plant that could survive Michigan’s Upper Peninsula weather poked its head through the rich brown soil. Bright red tomatoes hung from thick green vines. Hiding underneath enormous elephant leaves, zucchini roamed unchecked. Prickly pickling cucumbers snaked their way along the straw-strewn paths. Buried deep beneath the earth, I could almost see the potatoes growing fat, the fingerlings turning round and golden in the hidden darkness. In the waning August evening, I could feel God’s hand plumping green sugar peas, coaxing forth strong orange carrots and round purple beets. A lone rabbit munched curly leaf lettuce. A scarecrow stood silent sentry. Now and then a healthy robin swooped to steal his dinner—an earthworm that chanced too close to the surface. When the Lake Superior breeze blew gently over the land, wax beans danced in their patch. Chives shuddered. Cilantro quivered. Arugula’s beauty, already gone to seed, bowed to the aroma of skunk as the breeze stirred its leaves. Stretching far to the west, rows of cabbages raised their brainy heads to the sky, their vast outer leaves foiling hungry aphids.
We watched as the sun flamed red and orange and pink behind the jack pines. Evening fell quickly. Tuesday slipped away as silently as it had come. Uncle Steve coughed his life-ending lung cancer cough behind me. “Beautiful, ain’t it,” he said. I nodded. Grow garden, grow, I thought, grow strong for this old man. Let him have his last harvest from the land given to him by his father and his father before him.
As the sun gave up its ghost, we walked through spearmint, parsley, and basil, walked towards the farmhouse, our backs to the setting sun. From the ridge pole of the barn, an owl hooted the end of another day. The screen door closed behind us.