A blue jay dives into the purple catmint flowers by the front walk, grabbing a bumblebee in its mouth, hopping to a branch and struggling to swallow it. Muffled buzzing, then silence.
The neighbor with the red dog stops to smell the dawn pink roses by the sidewalk, those bonbons of velvet and vanities that hurt me every time I try to train them. Now clumps of Shasta Daisies, some taller than a fifth grader, spray up on either side of the fence and lean toward passersby.
School is over. Morning meetings and math pages have not been replaced by the usual circuit of camps, tennis clinics, and playdates. But in the patch of dirt between my front door and the sidewalk, dramas play out every day.
Cinderella pumpkin vines wander around at the feet of the peach tree, wrapping their tendrils around a boxwood branch or a wild poppy, pushing their floppy green plates up over all the other flowers like a bossy toddler, climbing over the mountains of daylilies toward the fence, and curling up their tips as if to invite their next friend, or victim.
We bring an old bench under the cherry tree near the rosemary plant that has grown shaggy and sloppy, like our hair without salons. We trim off minty, muscly rosemary branches and fill empty pesto jars and leave them outside the front gate for neighbors, and they keep disappearing and the kids keep filling them until we run out of jars.
There is only one paw-paw left on the tree, and we check it every day. It needed hand-pollination to be born, by a paintbrush twirled inside the tree’s burgundy flowers when their crenelated centers disintegrated into powder, and one day a dozen frosty green beads appeared, but someone bit them and threw them down when they were babies. Paw-paws grow in groves along the banks of the Potomac, but you never see the fruit in the store because you have to eat it as soon as it is picked, and I wonder if it will really taste like mango and banana like they say.
Wedding Gown lacecap hydrangeas that I transplanted closer to the sun in early spring now spin open, one bright white floret at a time, as if an invisible hand were tatting the lace.
A sprig of English lavender smells like fresh laundry and grandmothers’ bathrooms and new lingerie and French pastries, and when I roll it between my thumb and forefinger, it feels like someone has just drawn me a bath or sung me a lullabye.
One morning I came out and found one of our sunflower’s heads missing, and I saw a leaf branch broken and wilted against the stalk, and I immediately thought of the squirrel, the one I saw dangle from the picket fence and pull into its paws the last of our sour cherries. But not before we had picked enough to make a couple of pies.