The winter had been cold. The ash bin was full. She managed to lever it
up from the cellar, one step at a time. It made a mark on the kitchen
floor where she dragged it across, but no matter, the floor was old.
She'd rub some dirt into the scrape, then scrub the whole thing
down. It would look the same as ever: scarred with years of cooking and
cleaning, butchering and canning, good plain living.
From the back stoop, she lowered the bin into the wheelbarrow. The new
garden was a good ways from the house, sheltered all around by spruce
and cedar. An oasis, it felt to her, when she'd first come across
"No sense walking that far," he'd said when she'd
asked him to work up the ground. "I'll plow here, close by the
And so for forty years, she'd raised her tomatoes and beets,
cabbages and leeks within sight of her kitchen window. What should have
been a yard of flowers and shrubs was plowed up every spring, a scar
that she bandaged over, and over again, with strips of plants whose
withered remains she'd tear out in the fall, exposing the black
soil, always that wound, never allowed to properly close.
It took a week to lift the sod in the new spot. The ground was damp and
pliant, giving up its cover of grass without complaint. She didn't
mind the work. She'd done more and harder most of her life, and
never for herself. At the end of the day, tired from her labours, she
raked a bit more of the old garden and seeded it down, leaving a
filigree of narrow bands and small circles where she'd plant the
lilacs and spirea, the love-lies-bleeding and hollyhocks.
The stench nearly overwhelmed her as she rolled the gunnysack into the
hole. It settled with a dull sound, a faint echo of another, sharper
sound. She reeled back, catching herself on the wheel barrow, her hand
sinking into the ash, which brought to mind her deeper purpose and she
picked up the shovel, setting it down long after the sun had left and
the barrow was scraped clean, the soil smoothed over, ready to plant,
the winter harvest already lining the shelves in her mind, baby carrots
and delicately herbed beans, juices and sauces and preserves made all
the more delectable by her careful amendment to the soil.