The dried stalks of the sunflowers are snapped in half, and the wooden slats of the porch are split and broken. Fake spider webs are draped across the columns of the porch, and a plastic skeleton hangs from the branch of a tree. The front door is half open but blocked by a piece of rusted gate and the driveway filled with empty cardboard cartons and weeds.
This was the most beautiful garden in town right in front of a house that has a caved in roof, windows covered with plastic sheets, and red paint peeling off. The barn behind is a mass of dirt and stones. The man who owned the home who lived alone was always in the garden hanging up hummingbird feeders or tending to huge red and orange zinnias. A motorboat without an engine was stuck in the untrimmed hedge and an antique white Chevrolet missing a tire sat in the driveway.
From the first day of spring until winter the owner of the house worked in the garden mowing and planting and mulching and deadheading and weeding. Every other day he replaced the sugared water in the feeders and put out slices of fresh orange or apples for the birds. I stopped once to tell him what a magnificent garden he created, and he said, I love this garden like it’s my baby.”
The last time I saw him was a year ago in July. He always wore the same torn stained pair of faded denim overalls and a white shirt with sleeves rolled up. He lurched about as if he were out of breath; although I waved, he did not wave back but maybe he did not see me.
Yesterday morning there were two cars and a van in the driveway and people yelling at each other carrying tables and chairs and pots and pans. Today the white Chevy is gone. I walk with head bent down against the wind and wear a fleece jacket and two layers of shirts as well as a wool hat and gloves. The moss between the cracks of the sidewalk that was green in the sun is brown. The last flock of geese veered south last night with hoarse honking sounds. The hard ground is blanketed with yellow leaves curled at the edges. Everything is shut down.