Molly’s Idea Garden

By Susan Kelly-DeWitt

It’s quite nice to be out here in one of Molly’s innovative “cottages,” listening to the sound of the wind, shrubberies brushing the outside walls, branches doing arabesques; feeling a bit like Dorothy just before she’s transported to Oz. There are some garden tools within sight—rakes, a shovel, hoes, crowded into a Wilson golf bag beside one of the tall open windows where a rose climbs and the greens of several trees I can’t name cascade into view.

An old road sign stuck in the lawn says: SEE CLEARLY – DRIVE SAFELY.

I’ve brought my computer along for company; it’s running on battery power alone (like me?)—no internet here today, but Molly says the little room with the green wicker chair I’m snuggled in will have wireless soon. I’ve come to try out the space she has created as a prototype for an artist’s retreat in her half acre back yard, and, if I’m lucky, I’ll also try out a few new ideas of my own.

I might take time to write an overdue letter to an eighty-five year old poet friend who moved to the desert a couple of years ago to be nearer to her children and grandchildren, leaving behind the rich artistic life she had forged here in Sacramento, starting over again in her eighties. Her last letter to me was full of ebullience, detailing her life of poetry and art and projects and people.

She invited me to spend a week or two as her guest in the South of France! in a house that had, as if by magic, been offered to her for an entire year. Her letter also included her new business card, in red with a floral design and her soon-to-be French address and phone number.

I’ve delayed answering because I haven’t had the kind of concentrated time a response to her letter deserves; but I have it now, right here, today, on this windy morning in April, in Molly’s garden, which she was thinking at first of naming Sly Fox Farm but then opted for the cheer of Good Golly Farm instead.

I’ve shifted from the wicker chair to inhabit the modest writing desk tucked in one corner of the “cottage,” so my view of the garden has changed. I can see trumpet vines from here, and the flowers look like clusters of big orange grapes. There’s also a windmill spinning this way and that, like confused thoughts, and what looks like a tomato patch just beginning to sprout.

Nothing to disturb me now—no chores, phone calls, demands; the sounds of branches scraping the roof only energize. For two hours I can be the hermit in her hut on the mountain while life streams by.

Yes. Inside the stillness inside, the wind my heart is is quieting. The white sheers billow slightly and the sound of a jet passes over.

I love Molly’s new idea, to use her wildly creative garden as a retreat, a kind of artist’s day camp—to map out a space for writers and artists to engage for a few hours with group solitude. (I can’t help thinking of Merton in his hermit’s cabin: “The wind comes through the trees, and you breathe it.”)

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