Tánuki in the Garden

It drizzled one morning in October.  Daybreak came and a heavy, thin cloud covered the garden.  A steady and full drizzle descended as gravity pulled on the condensing clouds.  The showers lasted all day with fluctuating intensity.  The earth was soaking.  The wetness lasted nine more days.  Drizzle gave way to light showers and even a thunder storm one evening.  In the garden, the grand Sago cycad captured the rain with its large crown of thick and hard leaves.  Sago was the oldest living organism in the garden by over two decades and had an imposing presence.  While Sago seldom spoke, every plant and tree in the garden gave Sago its due respect.

On the first full night of the storm Tánuki awoke and stood up from his home in the garden.  The Japanese, shape-shifting, raccoon-dog waddled out of his cove, brushed away dead leaves and pushed off a deciduous tree.  He planted his staff into the pebbles and stepped over the tiny brook onto the paved trail at the east side of the master’s home.  The seventy-five pound granite raccoon-dog placed his satchel, flask and staff on the ground and went through his stretching routine. Tánuki walked north on that paved trail and passed several species of plants.  He was on his way to visit Sago.   Tánuki sat under the shelter of Sago’s leaves and listened to the rain fall around him.

Tánuki thought about the twenty-year-old jade plant at the west side of the garden.  It was about to flower.  He looked at the lemon and apple trees.  They were all planted by Mr. and Mrs. K, who maintained the garden prior to the current master.  Mr. K died and Mrs. K stopped caring for the garden.  The plants became over grown and the trees were neglected and produced poor fruit.  A juniper grew in the middle of the garden and stretched over a large area – low to the ground and beside Sago.

Tánuki remembered visiting the juniper.  He would find himself awaking at dawn under its broad and aromatic canopy.  This was his favorite place to pass enchanted evenings.  He would entice native lizards and the visiting animals to join in his nocturnal revelry.  Tánuki ended many nights lying under the dense branches.  He looked up at the spider webs appearing like countless gleaming constellations in a pitch black sky.  The steady chirping from the crickets was always present.  With cool soft turf under him, he peered into the micro universe that was teeming with life as a myriad of insects and other tiny critters scurried on their ways to find food or to escape becoming food.  Spider webs spread throughout the evergreen and were terraced to allow the countless arachnids proper space to spin their webs and dens as they waited to ambush their prey.

When the new master gardener arrived, he removed many plants that he found to be a nuisance.  Cattail and reeds were pulled and replaced with desert succulents and cacti.

The grand juniper suffered an especially harsh fate.  Sago and the other trees witnessed juniper get cut down with a chainsaw.  The stump sat in the middle of the garden for weeks.  The grand juniper was gone.  The life within the thick and expansive canopy ceased to exist.  A ten day storm came and soaked the earth.  On the first clear morning after that storm, the master gardener dug out the juniper’s roots.  That was a sad day for Sago and Tánuki.

Tánuki used to run through the garden creating and causing all sorts of mischief during ten-day storms.  He was feeling melancholy though.  Then the rain paused.  Two lizards darted in front of him.  A colony of snails slobbered its way toward a bush.  Sparrows called each other.  Tánuki summoned a trio of crickets.  He asked them to chirp and sing for him.  They obliged and so started the party.

Stephen Legaspi

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