It’s been years, decades, since I’ve stepped into my own backyard. Standing on the concrete slab connected to the back of the house, which had been my imaginary boundary line for all those years, I was still unsure if the backyard was real, or just a work of art that magically changed with the seasons.
In the background fifty yards away, the tall, dark-green pine trees guarded the entrance to the forest. Underneath the dome of an overcast sky, the trees looked like monstrous silhouettes with sharp edges and soulless voids at their core. I shiver to think of what those trees have seen over the years, what secrets they have been forced to keep.
Twenty yards beyond the house in the middle ground lay my late husband’s garden, a makeshift box twelve by ten feet wide. I remember when he built it, back when the sun shone over our plot of land and life was still brimming with possibility. Now, nothing grows. The tomato cages are rusted from years of neglect. Dead vines still cling to the steel wire, grasping for one last breath. The wooden boards at the front-left corner of the box have split, spilling out dry, useless soil like a cracked hourglass.
All that separated me from the garden box now was a foreground of weeds that looked as tall as the faraway pines, brimming with a hidden ecosystem of bugs, reptiles, and other venomous parasites. Dressed in my garden sandals and capri pants, I took a few steps through the
weeds and immediately felt the desperate embrace of chiggers, mosquitoes, and poisonous plants.
Looking over the weeds instead of out onto them, new details of the ecosystem emerged. These were all his contributions, unwanted by nature. The ends of cigarette butts carelessly thrown about, dirty adult diapers, rusted hammers and screwdrivers smudged with what I can only imagine are the remains of dried, brown blood, a black hiking boot with no laces, overturned orange ceramic pots left to suffocate small, circular patches of earth.
When I reach the garden box, I examine the dirt. At this point, I think I’ve cleaned all the bones from it, but you never know. Sometimes I still find scraps of fabric or jewelry in the dirt. You would think after all the trouble he went through, he would keep these incriminating scraps away from the bodies, but no. He always was an unorganized slob. Good riddance.
Once I finish chopping the individual limbs, just as I had seen him do to those poor, pleading souls in the dead of night when he thought I was asleep, I’ll scatter them around the box. This dirt, just like me, needs a fresh start. The almanac says it will be a good year for corn and tomatoes.