It is probably fitting that following a post on leaving wild corners in your garden I would be drawn to a recent post I saw on author Helen Yoest’s blog Gardening with Confidence regarding her organic creation of what she calls her Fire Garden. I found I kept thinking of her post and had the occasion to inquire about a possible guest post after she most generously reviewed my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy! We have some things in common other than writing about our gardens. She’s a Pisces lady living in North Carolina who owns a Border Collie! As many of you know, so much of the first draft of my book was written while I lived in Asheville, North Carolina. And thus today I bring you this lovely guest post written with Helen’s permission, which I intend to follow with yet another on fire pits, as I am now inspired to have one myself due to Helen’s original post. Let me know what you think!
Love and garden blessings,
The Fire Garden by Helen Yoest
I’ve often wondered if the childhood memory of the image of my Polish grandfather sitting out back of his Riverside, NJ home, near the grapevine by the shed, that had a coffee grinder on the far wall, touched me to the point of reliving any outdoor scene where food was involved. I can clearly picture him sitting in a chair, legs crossed, just staring at the ground. He was in his eighties. To him, it was a matter of just being outside. Not cooking out. Not kicking a ball with the kids. Not gardening, even, but enjoying the outdoor space just by sitting under the canopy of a shade tree.
Since my grandfather’s time, I’ve associated this type of behavior with people from countries other than America. Of course Americans sit outside, but not like in the manner of people from other countries. We tend to have a distinct indoor and outdoor flair. While we like to bring the outdoors in, for the most part, we aren’t as comfortable bringing the indoors out.
Some of my favorite movie scenes are of Europeans eating outside. A table would be pulled from the kitchen with a simple tablecloth to cover it, slightly off kilter, and everyday china and crystal on the table top. A rug might even be brought out along with candles and music and books and wine. If the weather was right, time was spent outdoors. It didn’t even have to be during the evening, it could be any meal, any time. In my book, this is living.
When we built the back porch, I envisioned every meal to be taken outside. It turns out I am the only one in the family that really likes to do this. It’s lonely out there.
Years later, something interesting happened. As the time came to take down the kids’ playground and later put up the chicken coop, I noticed something that I never expected. The Crape Myrtles I planted to frame that area had matured to a fine state, as did the red Maple. This development caught me off guard.
I planned the placement of those trees with other perspectives in mind, not for the sake of the playground, but from the view of the back porch. So when I stepped in the footprint of the former play set, I realized there was a new space. I’m not sure I could have planned it so well, and I’m also not sure I would have thought I needed to.
The new space is in the ell of the chicken coop and the garden house, and it’s shaded by the mature trees. It now sports three chairs and a fire pit. Only three chairs because that is what I had on hand. See, I didn’t go out and buy anything for this new space. I just pulled from other areas of the garden. If friends come over and I need more chairs, I can bring those from the inside of the house. This space is completely private. I knew it was a special place the first time I saw it all coming together.
Recently a garden photographer from Scotland was visiting. The first night we had dinner and conversation on the back porch. The next night, we had dinner on the porch, but then we took our conversation to the fire. The evening was magical. There is no other way to describe it. A fire adds so much mystery to a room, a space, an area.
My pit is crude, nothing fancy like Americans like to do, making something for the outside to look like something we have on the inside. Instead, it’s just made from a makeshift large copper tray sitting on top of some found rock. It is nothing short of perfection to me.
Now I’m one of those people who sits outside, with my legs crossed looking down at the ground or the fire or the chickens or whatever else I fancy. It’s not an event. It’s just a place to pass time, no different than sitting in a favorite arm chair or couch to read or watch a movie. Instead, I sit outside because I prefer to read and watch my life instead of someone else’s. And my beloved Border Collie, Pepper, is always with me.
From Septembers through May, on Sundays, my day in the garden, you’ll find me with a fire going. Join me sometime. I’ll make the time to sit with you in this special place so you can see first hand the magic of finding solace in the most unexpected places.
BONUS!! Helen has just generously offered to give a copy of her newest book, Plants with Benefits to one of my readers! Her book has been mentioned or featured almost everywhere, from the New York Times, to Birds and Blooms, The Weather Channel, and yes, was even tweeted by Dr. Ruth! Just leave a comment below and I will put your name in a hat and on Friday the 23rd I will pull the name of the winner and be sure you get a copy!