Earth Mother
Bev Vines-Haines

Marty Osborn’s gifts were legendary.  Most of the year folks in her neighborhood locked their gates or left snarling dogs on the front porch in order to keep her off their property. 

Marty recycled.  Her house to theirs.  Her porch to theirs.  Usually it was folded cardboard or a syrup bottle.  Sometimes bits of fabric or yarn.  Rarely it was pure garbage she couldn’t use and she left it for them to handle.

She did not believe in trash collection and on many an occasion she took after the garbage man with a broom.  Or a hammer.  Or a rake.  Marty considered the earth her home and its creatures her family.  She attracted dozens of raccoons and possums, feeding them bowls of old cereal and grains pulled from dumpsters.  She left treats for slugs, cheese for mice and fruit for bats.

And because her critters were so plentiful, few people (including animal control officers) ventured to her door.  There were crows and doves by the hundreds, lopsided bird and hummingbird feeders, raccoons and squirrels as well as a dozen feral cats patrolling the land between the road and the house.

In the spring Marty could be seen working her massive garden.  Flowers volunteered in every corner but her true love was the vegetables.  Crooked rows of corn, peas and green beans wound haphazardly around the front and back yards.  Zucchinis peeked out from the lilacs and hills of pumpkins, cucumber and all manner of squash seemed to choose their own settings.

As nights grew chill the neighbors opened their gates and tied the dogs.  Fall meant harvest and harvest meant Marty’s gifts were welcome.  Her lights burned late into the night.  She filled jars and bags as Santa must fill his sack.  Surrounded by her beasties, Marty strung long twining ropes of hot peppers and filled sachets with dried flowers collected that spring.  She baked loaves of zucchini bread and canned hundreds of jars of pickles, peaches, tomatoes and beans.  And the jams and jellies, gleaming with rich reds, purples, yellows and blues lined her cluttered counters.

She baked bread, gathered eggs from her endless brood of chickens and worked an old loom late into the night.  Many believed Marty’s immense love for the land was the reason the land gave back to her so freely.  She spun her own yarns and could knit an afghan in an afternoon.

And so the gifts came, on a quiet fall night, a bounty of goodness wrapped in her love.  Food, baked goods, eggs and blankets, all delivered before the dawn, tucked safely into porch corners and alcoves.

Those were the times when the earth felt real.

First published: May, 2014
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