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This September morning, I went out to weed the neglected backyard border bed. This corner of my garden, out of sight from my backyard, gets rare attention.

I push the rusting wheelbarrow of tools through the arbor and over the neighbors’ yard. Lurking behind the white pines was a bumper crop of weeds. I fetch the garden cart for the weeds and start to dig.

The peony chunks I transplanted here last June have died in the July drought. The crab grass, however, has thrived. I fork the soil loose, pull and toss clumps of it over and over. It surrenders easily.

Not so the dandelions. Despite the forked ground, they snap off at ground level, leaving roots that will multiply 100-fold next spring. I sigh. Some roots I wrestle with. Others I leave for next year.

Then, beneath the grass, a blossom gleams orange. A cucumber!
I remember the runt plant I tossed in among the peonies—so scrawny Marlo rejected it for his vegetable garden.

It’s still scrawny. But from a stunted stalk a cucumber dangles. Its siblings in Marlo’s vegetable garden are long gone. I pluck and pocket it.

I finish weeding. I lug the laden cart to the compost heap, park the wheelbarrow of tools in the workshop, and head for the garage.

Along the driveway, the miniature irises surprise me with half a dozen blooms. The heat wave subsiding, they have tried again to bloom, and for the first time, they have succeeded.

After the drought have come late summer gifts, unplanned, untended. All grace. All gift.

Carol Van Klompenburg

Carol Van Klompenburg has worked with words in one form or another for 50 years. She lives in Pella, Iowa.  This essay originally appeared in Carol’s book, Tending Beauty: Forty Moments in my Gardens.  

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