From the Bookshelf: Twigs in my Hair, A Gardening Memoir, by Cynthia Reyes

A common Post-Enlightenment concept is that occupations have an art and science to them.  As a therapist, sometimes I approach an intervention from the science side, using the concept of evidence-based practice to guide the rehabilitation process.  Biological, neurological, or psychological theories set the pace of therapy.  At other times, I rely on the art of practice, usually when it comes to engaging and motivating a client to utilize the science.  I view gardening much the same way.  Ask me about soil health and I’ll give your two hour lecture on the benefits of fungus.  Then again, don’t ask me.  Let just take a stroll in the garden, enjoy the view, and I’ll show you some really cool mushrooms along the way.  That is the art of gardening.

I do find that gardeners do tend to fall into either the artists or the scientists when it comes to their occupation of growing.  In our region, if you ask someone if they keep a garden, that means that they grow a vegetable garden, in other words, they are scientist about growing food.  On the other hand, the artists have flowers.  Inevitably, the gardeners run the law mower that keeps the flowers in their bed, and the artists complain about the mowing that destroys those Spring Beauties and Forget-Me-Nots that runs free through the pastures of law.  Though animal husbandry is not in the discussion, the legend of Cane and Able plays out when artists set designs on the garden, and gardeners try to establish boundaries which nature ignores

A couple of weeks ago, a writer/blogger friend, Cynthia Reyes, sent an e-mail requesting to verify my address.  A new book was on its way (full disclosure, she figured that she would just send me a complementary copy to read as she knew that I would write a review, hence I am typing now).  A few days later, Twigs in My Hair, A Gardening Memoir arrived in our mail box.  I had just finished reading a volume on the biology of soil health (aka science), thus an artist tome about gardening was welcome.

You may recall, Cynthia is a writer of memoirs, A Good Home and An Honest House.  Twigs in my Hair is the gardening companion to these other recollections and reflections on life.  While the prior memoirs focused more on personal history in the context of the dwellings that Cynthia has occupied, Twigs in my Hair expands on the gardens (vegetable and flower) which provide the environments surrounding those structures and events.

Cynthia embodies that art of gardening.  Her husband, Hamlin, is the scientist of tomatoes, peppers, and onions.  I wonder if they combine their skills in the kitchen, or play out a Montague-and-Capulet rivalry with knifes, cutting boards, scissors and vases.  I think I shall wait out on the veranda for tea to be served.

Cynthia’s writing style is a delight to read.  Each chapter covers an aspect of gardening, flowers, design, vegetable, cooking, critters, fences and arbors.  More importantly, in Cynthia’s view, each chapter covers an aspect of living, magic, discovery, patience, and relationships.  Gardening is not merely about plants, it is about living.

“At church, at school, and especially at our dinner table, my sisters and I obeyed the rules and followed the belief of the adults around us.  But when we were together, alone, we lived by the rules of our own world, complete with magical flowers.”  Ah, the secret gardens of children and companions.

“Gardening, however, is much more than growing pretty flowers and nutritious vegetables.  Gardening forces us to consider how we live with nature.

“If you garden, and especially if you garden in the countryside, you will sooner or later find yourself clashing with the wild creatures that share our planet”  Ah, the bucolic garden besieged by bunnies!

“But let us not dwell on failures.  A new spring is a time of hope.  hope that the long winter is past, and that the summer will be heaven.  Hope that the garden season will be joyous, with just enough sunshine and just enough rain, and not too many aphids, cabbageworms, earwigs, or mosquitoes.” Ah, the seasons governing our time and moods and aspirations.

The Fall Harvest is currently is full swing with too many tasks that beg for time: picking, canning, cleaning garden beds, putting hay and manure form the goat barn down.  But, Winter will be here soon enough.  Be sure the order your copy of Twigs in my Hair now.  You will have time to read it on a cold, Winter’s day, or dark Winter’s night.  Let your mind winder to next Spring’s garden design or seed catalogues for discovering some new vegetables.

I do know of a garden that Cynthia and Hamlin have not visited.  Maybe next Spring we can stroll.  I may have to take two laps.  With Cynthia, I shall share the magic of flowers and winding pathways of life.  Hamlin and I shall take about the value of fungus on vegetable health and nutrition.  I suggest they stay out of the kitchen and enjoy the view from the deck until tea is served.

About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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29 Responses to From the Bookshelf: Twigs in my Hair, A Gardening Memoir, by Cynthia Reyes

  1. Terrific review! My copy of “Twigs in My Hair” is on my bookshelf, and I am so looking forward to reading it. As soon as my own book is finished, I will dip right in. Can’t wait!

  2. cindy knoke says:

    Such an excellent review of such an excellent person. Thank you. Both.

  3. I love this post, Oscar. Made me think and made me grin too! Then I read it to Hamlin, who loved it. We both appreciate the context and perspective you provide, the humorous touches, and the thought of a stroll in your garden one of these springtimes! That’s a beautiful post!

  4. Are those rocks at the front of the lower-level garden bed, Oscar?

    • hermitsdoor says:

      We are built on a slope… we have (at least) six rock walls for terracing. Would you like to count how many rocks are in each? ha, ha, ha. I’m making slow progress on a major embankment, which is 45′ on three sides. Each time we walk, I find one or two rocks in the ditch and haul them home to slowly build up the incline. I’m aiming to have this project done by the time I’m 75.

      • Hmmm.. sounds familiar. But do you have more than six hundred and seventy-seven rocks in those walls, young man?

      • hermitsdoor says:

        I consider gardening my “gym membership”… and we have been building these over 20 years, not an afternoon.

      • So are you saying you have hauled hundreds of rocks? Answer the question, kind sir! and have you ever ‘stolen’ any from the roadside and construction sites? Because if so, we are truly kindred spirits.

      • hermitsdoor says:

        All the rocks came within a mile of our property, none from construction sites. As to the concept of “stealing” we must discuss ethics, or at least rationalizations. If we define stealing as appropriating something without permission, some might accuse us of a lifted rock or two. On the other hand, given that we live on the side of a mountain and gravity and mass waisting (effects of ice and water which dislodge rocks and send them downhill to the ditch), many rocks end up in ditches along the right of way. Thus, when I clean ditches, I find many rocks which we might say are not gathering moss. If I then clean the ditch, I must pick them up to allow the ditch to function. I am not about to toss them back up hill. Or, shall we compromise with “judge not lest you be judged”.

      • You are a true philosopher, Oscar. And clearly have no need to cross the line into ethical land mines in the acquisition of rocks. Wish I could say the same.

  5. Delightful review. I love the parts about Cynthia and Hamlin dueling it out in the kitchen and garden.

  6. pauladee4 says:

    What a delightful review and post. Thanks for a lull in my day made more beautiful reading this.

  7. Clare Pooley says:

    What a charming review! I hope to get Cynthia’s book some time soon.

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