In November 2009, for the first time in my life, I was overtaken by the earthly need to garden. After five or six months of pulling ivy, digging roots, hacking stumps and pruning years of deadwood, I discovered a conch shell – big, pink and bright as you please – beneath a cedar in a final corner of the yard.
Unusual, I thought, for Carrboro, North Carolina – 200 miles inland, no home to mollusks. I talked to a friend about the conch shell, and we tossed around plausible explanations. She wondered if there’d been recent construction work in the neighborhood. I recalled burying a treasure beneath the porch of my childhood house so the next kid could find it. Then she asked me what I really thought. The answer … that it was a spirit or some type of fairy … a sign that I should keep going with the garden … that there were other discoveries to make and treasures to uncover.
From where I sit today, the conch shell was just such a thing. Without the gardening, In Mr. Handsome’s Garden would not have been written. I would not have discovered Our Lady of Lourdes. Nor would there be a hedge of camellias on the side of the house or three Japanese maples in the yard or gardenias by the drive.
What other conclusions can be drawn, I do not know. This one makes me the happiest.