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August 20, 2007
What are you doing over here?

A brand new butterfly bush has set up housekeeping among the hyssop plants. The leaf structures of the two are superficially similar; I never would have noticed him if he hadn't suddenly grown a bright purple bloom not found on hyssop. A friend of his did the same thing earlier in the season, appearing without an invitation over among the bee balm. I wouldn't have known about him, either, if I hadn't dug him up and given him to Mary as a monarda. "Monarda" is bee balm's fancy name.

You know that monarda you gave me? she said one day a week poor two ago. It's a buddleia. "Buddleia" is the butterfly bush's fancy name. All the plants have fancy names to go with the nicknames we give them.

Well, dang.

How did you get over here? I asked the plant again, not having received an answer the first time.

I dunno. Bird, I guess.

Probably he was right. Birds are excellent propagators, dropping poop from the sky and thereby spreading plant seeds everywhere they go. Once in a while a bird hits a person with it: this happened to me when I was seven and on my way to school. I had to run back home and have my grandmother wash the bird poop out of my hair, laughing as she did so. Then I hurried to school and used the incident for show-and-tell. This was the beginning of my career as a personal essayist.

But this kind of propagation is part of the natural order. Immigrants show themselves all over the garden at this time of year: a new columbine crowding out a lavender plant, bright cosmos and portulaca blooming suddenly among the empty stems of the spent lilies in front. Now and then a tomato appears where you least expect to see one. A new fig tree has settled in under one of my rosebushes. And, in our garden, new redbud trees are everywhere. We should open a plant nursery.

Along the road in front of our house, young men from Central America walk to work as gardeners early in the morning. They return twelve hours later, at dusk, heading for the train back to New Brunswick. Holas, I say as a trio of them passes my garden, where I stand doing for an hour of pleasure in the cool of the early evening what they do for a hard living in the heat of high noon. They smile and return my greeting quietly, weary from a very long day. They must be part of the natural order, as well.
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