The Herb Garden

By: Shelly Reuben

The Herb Garden

If you said the words “herb garden” to most people (dare I say – to a normal person?), he or she would probably think of cultivated soil filled with edible plants: Basil, Licorice, rosemary, mint, parsley, spearmint, coriander or Thyme.

I don’t.

Maybe because I’m a writer. Maybe because I’m … odd.

If you say “rainbows” to me, I am less likely to think of a colorful arc spanning the horizon than I am to think of fanciful ribbons tied in bows and falling (like rain) from the sky.

Say “elbow room,” and I conjure up a room filled with dismembered arms bent at the elbow. Say “hedgehog,” and I imagine a bully in a greenhouse, monopolizing every single honeysuckle and hydrangea in the place.

Which brings me back to the herb garden. Shoot me. I can’t help it. I see it completely populated with Herbs: Herbert Spencer. Herbert Hoover. Herbert Bayer. Herbert …

It’s a rather pretty garden, really. On top of a hill behind a big, brick Federal house. There are meadows rolling off in the distance, with a winding river – maybe the Susquehanna – gently lapping at its banks.

The garden itself is rectangular. Bigger than most herb gardens because, of course, the Herbs inside are oversized. For a kitchen-garden plant – gigantic.

All of the Herbs are, of course, waist deep in the dirt. Some are wearing jackets. One has on a frock coat. Another a jersey top. A third an open collar shirt. Some are clean-shaven. Some bearded. One is wearing a bow tie. All are gesturing with their hands.

The nearest to the walkway is Elizabethan poet George Herbert, hardly the most vigorous Herb in the garden. I see dust feathering his flowing hair, and I wonder if rain pools under his big, bib-like collar. A soft murmur comes from his unsmiling lips, and the words, “Wit fancies beauty, beauty raiseth wit,” follow me as I walk by.

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