“Love winter,” wrote the poet-monk Thomas Merton, “when the plant says nothing.” Would that this were so for me, but when the ice winds of late January undress the last of the garden fruit trees, rather than abiding in dormant silence these plants begin to whisper in tongues, unraveling their long, winding stories. Whether I know the plants well or not makes little difference, as I learned last year while visiting the garden of some dharma friends in Sacramento for the first time.

Liliana had just moved into her father’s house in a quiet neighborhood in eastern Sacramento. Ernesto, her father, had died a few months before, and Liliana was still in the talons of grief. She and her husband were unpacking boxes when I arrived on a damp midwinter afternoon. We went outside into Ernesto’s garden and stood in the chill rain under the huge shelter of two old pomegranate trees that border his place. Massive suckers pushed up out of the raw wet earth, and the bare branches of the pomegranate clicked and chattered overhead.

 

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