Gardenlands

One Sunday morning I wake to a sudden Autumn, echoing like chapel bells through the sleeping streets. It is the fickle species of Autumn, a vagrant Autumn that will caravan through with her gypsy charm, run away in the night, and return with the new moon. But today, we will walk with her.

On rainy Sunday mornings, Mainz stays in bed. I meet only rabbits on the paths. Grey as creamy rain clouds, the rabbits wag back and forth beneath the trees. They watch me knowingly, their eyes dark and haunting as oil-slicks.

Mainz is a patchwork of apartment homes and gardenlands. The gardenlands overgrow whole city blocks, bridging neighborhoods with green territories made up of hundreds of small allotment gardens. Each allotment garden is tended by a family, sometimes for generations. I walk the seams of the city, threading between apartment blocks and gardenlands. Though hardly larger than a garden shed, each allotment is an overflowing cornucopia of German-grown abundance. The vines are studded with heavy gems: tomatoes in every shade of carnelian, garnet, amber, and citrine. From beneath green leaves, eggplants and peppers gleam, lacquered with dew. Apples and quince crown trees older than the gardeners who will harvest the buxom fruit. Most allotments even have a tiny garden cottage shaded by wisteria, morning glory, and trumpet vine. I dream of giving up my student apartment and moving to an overgrown cottage in the gardenlands.

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Another Eden grows on the fringes of the university campus: The Botanical Gardens. As I walk toward the western corner, I find myself wandering through the forests of home. In the groves labeled Pazifisches Nordamerika, I discover a trail back to the evergreen woods I have hiked a hundred times. I know I am home when the green turns just the right shade. From the April-green of the Asiatic groves, I step over a threshold into the dark, December-green of home.

After my damp Sunday rambles, Autumn waits for me indoors. She settles me in with all the luxuries of Fall: a book of Lord Byron’s, a cup of tea, and a cat with a rusty purr.

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