Beanery Online Literary Magazine

January 18, 2010

River Song: Part 1



Tim Landy

     Tim’s story is posted in three parts. Revisit the Beanery Online Literary Magazine to read the coming two posts that complete River Song.

     Or, for your convenience, subscribe to this site by typing your e-mail address in the SUBSCRIPTION box in the upper right hand column of this site. You will receive a return e-mail asking you to confirm the subscription. Your e-mail will not be publicized.

     The subject of this article is a fascinating woman who lives on the line between nature’s chaotic and man’s organized worlds.

            When friends stop by Joan Patterson’s weathered farmhouse in late summer or early autumn, more than likely she’ll be in her garden, puttering with her perennials or picking vegetables or resting in her favorite spot: a shadowy bower at the end of a winding path.

            For Joan, this dome-shaped shelter, formed from bowed saplings and cloaked in spiraling bean plants and morning glories, is the center of her miniature Eden.  The garden, in turn, is the focal point of her 140-acre farm, sprawling along a narrow black-topped lane, threading through the upland meadows and thickets of northern Bullskin Township, Pennsylvania.

            Seated at a small crude table covered with a pink tablecloth, she may be shelling beans, or she may be reading one of her latest library books on gardening, wild flowers, spiral patterns in the cosmos, particle theories, or black holes in space.  Ruff-Ruff, her devoted mixed breed, will probably be dozing at her feet.  

            “I like to watch the butterflies and hummingbirds at the zinnias,” Joan says, reaching up to replace an unruly tendril of frosty hair.  “They give me a good reason to sit!”

            “The bower was my idea.  I like the idea of vines,” she says in a gentle, lyrical voice. “I had seen a picture of Kentucky pole beans and thought it would be fun to try a different shape.”  Cut in the spring, the flexible twelve-foot poles last for two or three years.

            This ritual of watching her garden grow begins in early spring.  “The first thing I plant in my garden is my chair!” she laughs.  Soon this tiny plot is sprouting, budding, flowering, fluttering and chirping with life.  Like many other gardeners, Joan likes perennials but she prefers annuals.  “A garden of annuals is different every year.”  Rather than planning a design on paper, she studies the garden to decide what spontaneous pattern will emerge for that year.  “Much depends on happenstance,” she says.

            As you walk through the rustic gate made of saplings and stoop to pass beneath the arbor hanging heavy with concord grapes, you get a better view of Joan’s free-spirited garden.  Just outside the bower, a 12-foot-tall volunteer sunflower dangles its heavy head.  Beans, squash, cantaloupe, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, corn and other vegetables intermingle with cosmos, nasturtiums, statice, and—Joan’s favorite—zinnias.

            Diane King Potter, a longtime friend who now lives in Ligonier, says, “I think Joan’s garden is fantastic!”  She is amazed to discover that the irregular mounds of soil found there in the spring have burst into an unruly chorus of color by summer.  “It’s so imaginative.  It’s a fairytale garden,” she says.  Both of her daughters were married in the garden. They had lovely summer weddings.”

            Others, too, have been enchanted by Joan’s horticultural magic.  Her sister, Elizabeth Balentine, who lives in Yucaipa, a small town tucked against the mountains about fifty miles from Palm Springs, California, says, “The first thing I look for is the garden. I love to sit at the picture window and look at the sheep and ducks and horses.”

     Be sure to either subscribe to the Beanery Online Literary Magazine or to revisit this site to read Part 2 of River Song.



January Catalogues Lead to June Gardens

Memoir Writing Can Elicit Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Deborah Nelson: Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist

Friend Traveling to Haiti is Needed in Relief Effort

The Partners in Progress Mission Project in Haiti

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