Build A Wall

by Jennifer Marie Donahue

Why not take a hoe, slice into the earth and make neat little rows of overturned soil. Take a spade and dig shallow holes, empty and waiting for the seed. Why not pull up the rocks you find and wonder about the glaciers that carved the land in alluvial ribbons, moving the rocks along a conveyor belt to deposit them here, where you would find them. Take those rocks, pile them up and build a wall. Don’t think about how that wall will outlast your new garden, your house, your whole life. Don’t think about how that wall might be the most enduring thing you ever do.

Plant tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, pumpkins and try for corn. Add flowers to attract the pollinators, to give color, to sway in the hot summer breezes and drink in the rains from storms that roll across the land. Peel the grubs off the leaves, watch the hummingbirds and dragonflies hover around the vines like sentinels. Pull the weeds, but leave the ones that grow too close to the root lest you ruin the plant and accidentally pull up the good with the bad.

Why not plant an apple tree nearby, or some other fruit that smells like summer: cherry, plum, pear, or peach. Why not plant one of each. You need a tree that will blossom every spring and struggle to form globes of fruit. Planting these trees will require digging larger holes. You will dig and find more rocks. The wall will grow larger, serpentine in shape, meaningful and more ominous. Digging the holes for the trees will remind you of the holes dug for burial. Knee-deep in that hole you will make a silent prayer to die when the ground is warm and yields easily because you don’t want anyone to struggle to plant you, to get rid of you. 

Why not let the grass grow wild. It will attract all the animals that secret in camouflage, the insects that like a land grown unkempt. Take your time, let the earth shape itself, grow over that wall, strangle your trees, your vegetables, and take it all back. Why not.

Originally published in Corium Magazine, Spring 2015.

Image: Photograph, Pastel on sanded paper, “In the Irish Fields,” Jennifer Marie Donahue, 2019.