The Witch House

There’s a house in the cul-de-sac that I call the Witch House. It’s been essentially abandoned since we moved in here 14 years ago this May (gosh, time flies) – and I’m deeply sorry that I never got to meet the woman that I still think of as the witch. She may or may not have been some kind of actual earth-religion person, but the whole place has that earth-mother organic-garden feel – the house is shingled on the facings, overgrown with ivy, crowded in on all sides by trees; massive vines of small-flowered climbing roses clamber up the side of the garage, smelling faintly of cinnamon and cloves, there are Gulf Coast Penstemons scattered haphazardly through the yard, and a blend of old fashioned favorites like real hyacinths and muscari and irises harmoniously commingle with natives like side-oats gramma and woodland Passiflora lutea under the spreading bronze plums with their so-sour fruit. So far as I know, she’s still alive, but had to leave here and move for health reasons. A landscape crew comes usually twice a year, whacks things back and cleans up the bamboo.

But every spring, this tree peony blooms. You can see it beside the door there; you have to know what it is to even realize it’s blooming. It literally makes me weep; I’m sitting here wracked with tears, trying to explain this. It’s so beautiful, and so far removed from normal “Dallas” landscape plantings… it’s the only one I’ve ever seen in a yard in this whole CITY, in bloom. And every year, I go, and I walk barefoot in her garden, and I fucking BEAR WITNESS, and I take pictures. Because whatever variety this is, it’s an eloquent tone poem in shades of pink and rose and coral, and the beauty of it cuts me like a knife. Maybe one of these days I’ll work up the nerve to render it in silks; they’re a favorite subject for embroidery because of the subtle shades.

And some years there are two flowers or three, but often only one, and sometimes if the weather was bad, I miss its full bloom. But I want you all to see it, and I want to pay respect to this beautiful garden despite its lying in ruin. I’m pretty sure raccoons have inhabited the attic; this will be a house that will be difficult for someone to refresh, it will likely be torn down when and if it sells.

I’ve never had the nerve to take so much as a cutting from this garden, because that’s how you end up in a fairy tale. I’ve tasted a few of the ornamental plums, despite, or perhaps because of, the possibility of being carried off by the elves. They were sour, and gave me no nightmares. But if this house goes on the market and I see a SOLD sign on it, I will go in the night, and I will rescue this princess with a shovel, because if they tear the house down, she will never survive.

And wherever you may be, lady who built this garden with love and care and unusual and rare plants mixed with native and wild things – I see you, and I honor you, and thank you for the beauty and the tears.

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