The past week the word that has been clinging to the outer edges of my thoughts is shelter. The word could have been shade. Lord knows we were all thinking about shade. But the word was shelter.
Shelter is shade and then some. Where shade is an umbrella, shelter is a hut. Shade is where we stop on a hike to cool down. Shelter is where we stop for the night. We talk to each other, sitting in lawn chairs, in the shade. We heal in the shelter of each others arms.
Shelter is what my pumpkin plant sought as is slithered out of its bed, across the burning mulch, and into the dark den beneath a hedge. It is the place I create with shade cloth (draped across arched conduit piping) where my strawberries live in a modified climate that allows them to flourish. The squash bugs seek shelter, scurrying beneath leaves and around stalks, fleeing from the determined pincers of my hand. For them shelter preserves their life. The basils are sheltered beneath the bean plants where they grow up like lithe ballerinas, distant relatives to the sturdy, thick waist, tough broads that live in full sun.
Shelter is what the sunflowers provide the plants beneath them. Sunflower shade follows the sun through the day, as though on a leash, casting grey rays on waiting plants. The receiving plants exhale and rest– building strength for when the shade will move on.
Planted on three sides of the garden, and intermittently throughout the beds, the sunflowers are the living swamp cooler between the garden and the fiery pavement. Under each giant sunflower leaf is cooled condominium quarters for the bugs and bees. Sunflowers provide shade, homes, cooling–all as vital to the life of the garden as the soil or water.
As I write this I am seeking shelter. It is 7:15 on a Tuesday evening. I’m huddled against the stark Grecian white wall on the north side of my home. A large hedge to my east and a wispy bush to my west cradle me from the cold, goose pimple wind that is blowing rain from the sky. The inside of my $2.00 IKEA garden shoes are wet– squeegee noises as I wiggle my toes. The shelter I seek now has to do with protection from the wind and rain. It is a respite from the week of searing sun. It is a place to be quiet- a moment away from the inside of the house where a squealing toddler is tooth brushing.
Shade is what gets us through a hot day. Shelter gives us life.
Pumpkin heading towards a bush
Sunflower mid day– shade casting
Underside of sunflower condo
Sunflower wall around the edge of the garden
Sheltered spot where I write
Sun flower glory!
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