Tuesday, February 12, 2008


"The garden...is a different Eden for every gardener," says Diane Ackerman. Our neighbors in the new condos next door have finished their landscaping. They scraped the earth flat and bare, then planted from scratch -- truckloads of imported sod, transplanted mature palms, tropical shrubs of every sort, sprayed and trim. Our friend the talented nurseryman Marco got the job, so you can be sure it looks good. This is Eden for a very upscale Adam, an Adam who wants to sit down with God and negotiate a contract: "I'll contribute a rib in return for a suitable trophy Eve -- young, lithe, looks good in a fig bikini."

Our garden is a rather more scruffy thing, a postlapsarian wilderness held tentatively at bay. The love vine and bur grass are as persistent as sin, and -- yes -- there's a snake, a big white boa that tries hard to come across as the Prince of Darkness, but we like him because he keeps down the rats. God knows what our new neighbors make of the sea lettuce that grows with all the abandon of human hubris run amok. The closest thing we have to forbidden fruit are the coco plums; whenever the guys from Darville's Lumber come by with a delivery they wolf them down, thereby acquiring, I would suppose, about as much knowledge of good and evil as it is possible to obtain in this world. And the sea grape, which my own Eve loves with a consequential longing, juts and flops and elbows its way into places it has no business being, like angels in rebellion, fallen choirs. Not so much Eden this as Milton's infernal "all-demon" palace where plants collude and conspire to bring creation to ruin.