Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Demetrius the Gardener: 1948-2009

A brilliant and strictly principled organic gardener, Demetrius was talented with all plants and devoted to vegetables. He dug a pit 25 feet by 25 out of hard clay and filled it with soil and it became his garden. He grew exquisite tomatoes, beans, zucchini, Charentais cantaloupes, pattypan squash, lettuces, and red potatoes; also onions, garlic, turnips and -- pictured, he's harvesting -- kale. Fresh kale grew deep into the the winter in the hotbeds he built. When he saw his first tomato seedlings every April, you would have thought he was a new father admiring his babies.

Demetrius used to lecture and chide the bunnies who were calmly and in plain sight chomping on his vegetables. The bunnies didn't listen, although he had important stuff to say. So he planted white clover between the vegetable rows, and it worked; the bunnies ate the clover and left the rest alone. But we never did figure out how to keep the turtles from eating the cantaloupes. He loved the seasons and solstices and bees and cycles of life and often remarked on the natural world: "The design is perfect."

He always tried to get a position as a gardener but his true love was farming. The tomatoes on the plate I'm holding in my own photo are the fruits of his labor. Goodbye, friend since 1997; a difficult and sometimes tortured man, Demetrius. He took that name because it means "priest of Demeter" and a gardener is a priest of the earth.

1 comment:

Becky said...

A fine tribute. I'm rereading Louise Gluck (The Wild Iris) and remembering, from both her and now you, there's no better place to understand the incomprehensible links between heaven and earth than in a garden. Looks like Demetrius was a student of the same. I'm sure he'd like being remembered by you, with the kale in hand.