Glen’s Garden

By

Glen’s Garden
Glen's Garden

We only met once, but I’ll always remember him. He was a tall man, thin to the point of being gaunt, with long gray hair. His slightly-stooped posture spoke of a life hard-lived; his eyes countered with friendliness and humility. If there was ever a guru atop a mountain, it was Glen.

Glen’s garden was just as improbable: wild, tangled, so bursting with life it was barely contained within the borders of his trailer home. I wouldn’t have thought that such rampant growth could exist on such a small plot…much less in downtown Boulder, in the shadow of the Rockies.

My friend and I found the modernistic trailer while taking a post-lunch walk. Outfitted with solar panels and walls that were made entirely of post-consumer materials, its clean Frank-Lloyd-Wrightesque lines fit seamlessly into the serene Colorado landscape.

I ran a finger across one of the velvet rosebuds that had strayed from the main bush and wondered what lay beyond the fence. More roses? Climbing vines? Trees heavy with fragrant fruit? The Secret Garden couldn’t have been any more enticing.

A worn truck pulled up to the curb. “Is this your garden?” my friend and I asked the homespun man who got out of it.

He gave us a gentle smile. “It is,” he said. “Would you like to see more of it?”

“Yes, please!” I answered quickly. I felt as giddy as a child on Christmas Eve.

We followed him through the arched gateway into a world gone amok with color and scent. No soil was visible beneath the onslaught of growing things.

I nearly tripped over the root of a giant sunflower standing sentry inside the gate. The flower head was bigger than my head – and far above it.

“That’s also called a Jerusalem artichoke,” Glen said when he noticed me staring up in wonder. He held out his hand. “I’m Glen. Welcome to my home.”

With an effort, I shifted my focus to the man in front of me. “I’m Lisa,” I said. My friend echoed the introduction.

Glen smiled again. “I’m glad you found my garden. Let me show you more of it.”

We followed him eagerly, ducking to avoid vines laden with thick, long beans. They were English runner beans, Glen said, much sweeter than the beans we knew. He neatly snapped off several of them and handed each of us a small bouquet. We discovered that he was right – whether it was the variety of bean or Glen’s green thumb, they were the sweetest, crispest beans we’d ever tasted.

His entire garden tasted marvelous, in fact. He insisted we try the ripe plums, the deep-garnet raspberries, the crunchy pears, the tomatoes heavy with juice. He showed us how he protected the root vegetables during the winter so that he could still have a harvest. “Carrots, onions, potatoes, turnips – I can pull them up in February to make a stew,” he said. “In fact, I get so much out of my garden year-round that I donate baskets of produce to the local soup kitchen every week.”

We went into the trailer. Jars of homemade wine stood on the shelves; herbs grew in window boxes, some perched atop haphazard stacks of books. Everywhere we looked there was something green or something printed. The tiny bedroom was stuffed ceiling-to-floor with books. I was about to ask where he slept, but then I noticed the nest of blankets piled in a corner of the living room. There was no television, no radio, nothing electronic – just plants and books. I realized that for all his food wealth, Glen didn’t have much in his bank account.

There was a faded picture of a woman and child near the blankets. It was his family, he said, when he saw us looking at it. He told us that his daughter had passed away in an accident, and that his wife had left him shortly after that, sick with a grief that couldn’t be cured. For a brief moment, his eyes turned black.

“I could have ended up that way, too,” he said, “but I have my garden, and that’s enough to make me happy.” Radiance crept back into his lined face.

By the time we left Glen’s garden, our hearts were as full as our hands – Glen insisted that we take armloads of cabbages and apples and strawberries and everything that was pluckable…which is to say, more than we could carry. My friend wanted to object, I could tell – he had also noticed Glen’s lack of material goods – but it was clear that giving away what little he had made Glen happier than having more things.

That night, our table heaped high with gifts from Glen’s garden, we feasted like kings.

About this writer

  • Glen's Garden

    We only met once, but I’ll always remember him. He was a tall man, thin to the point of being gaunt, with long gray hair. His slightly-stooped posture spoke of a life hard-lived; his eyes countered with friendliness and humility. If there was ever a guru atop a mountain, it was Glen.

    Glen’s garden was just as improbable: wild, tangled, so bursting with life it was barely contained within the borders of his trailer home. I wouldn’t have thought that such rampant growth could exist on such a small plot…much less in downtown Boulder, in the shadow of the Rockies.

    My friend and I found the modernistic trailer while taking a post-lunch walk. Outfitted with solar panels and walls that were made entirely of post-consumer materials, its clean Frank-Lloyd-Wrightesque lines fit seamlessly into the serene Colorado landscape.

    I ran a finger across one of the velvet rosebuds that had strayed from the main bush and wondered what lay beyond the fence. More roses? Climbing vines? Trees heavy with fragrant fruit? The Secret Garden couldn’t have been any more enticing.

    A worn truck pulled up to the curb. “Is this your garden?” my friend and I asked the homespun man who got out of it.

    He gave us a gentle smile. “It is,” he said. “Would you like to see more of it?”

    “Yes, please!” I answered quickly. I felt as giddy as a child on Christmas Eve.

    We followed him through the arched gateway into a world gone amok with color and scent. No soil was visible beneath the onslaught of growing things.

    I nearly tripped over the root of a giant sunflower standing sentry inside the gate. The flower head was bigger than my head – and far above it.

    “That’s also called a Jerusalem artichoke,” Glen said when he noticed me staring up in wonder. He held out his hand. “I’m Glen. Welcome to my home.”

    With an effort, I shifted my focus to the man in front of me. “I’m Lisa,” I said. My friend echoed the introduction.

    Glen smiled again. “I’m glad you found my garden. Let me show you more of it.”

    We followed him eagerly, ducking to avoid vines laden with thick, long beans. They were English runner beans, Glen said, much sweeter than the beans we knew. He neatly snapped off several of them and handed each of us a small bouquet. We discovered that he was right – whether it was the variety of bean or Glen’s green thumb, they were the sweetest, crispest beans we’d ever tasted.

    His entire garden tasted marvelous, in fact. He insisted we try the ripe plums, the deep-garnet raspberries, the crunchy pears, the tomatoes heavy with juice. He showed us how he protected the root vegetables during the winter so that he could still have a harvest. “Carrots, onions, potatoes, turnips – I can pull them up in February to make a stew,” he said. “In fact, I get so much out of my garden year-round that I donate baskets of produce to the local soup kitchen every week.”

    We went into the trailer. Jars of homemade wine stood on the shelves; herbs grew in window boxes, some perched atop haphazard stacks of books. Everywhere we looked there was something green or something printed. The tiny bedroom was stuffed ceiling-to-floor with books. I was about to ask where he slept, but then I noticed the nest of blankets piled in a corner of the living room. There was no television, no radio, nothing electronic – just plants and books. I realized that for all his food wealth, Glen didn’t have much in his bank account.

    There was a faded picture of a woman and child near the blankets. It was his family, he said, when he saw us looking at it. He told us that his daughter had passed away in an accident, and that his wife had left him shortly after that, sick with a grief that couldn’t be cured. For a brief moment, his eyes turned black.

    “I could have ended up that way, too,” he said, “but I have my garden, and that’s enough to make me happy.” Radiance crept back into his lined face.

    By the time we left Glen’s garden, our hearts were as full as our hands – Glen insisted that we take armloads of cabbages and apples and strawberries and everything that was pluckable…which is to say, more than we could carry. My friend wanted to object, I could tell – he had also noticed Glen’s lack of material goods – but it was clear that giving away what little he had made Glen happier than having more things.

    That night, our table heaped high with gifts from Glen’s garden, we feasted like kings.

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