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Maureen James-Barnes

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Maureen James-Barnes Little Rock Collection development librarian, UALR My favorite place in Arkansas is right outside my back door in my backyard. It is the space where for the last 16 years I’ve planted every plant I could beg or buy as I made myself a garden. Part of my pleasure in this space is that I have been successful in transforming what 16 years ago was a place for pine trees, sweet gums, and a shrub or two, into what some might call a jungle of wildflowers, tropical plants, fruit trees, and a few grasses and vegetables. No matter what it’s called, this is my own little Eden, my haven. There is a pin oak in the center of the yard that is now about 20 feet tall. I remember planting it. Now it shades my houseplants and the bench I sit on when I want to relax and enjoy the birds and the flowers. I sometimes sit on this bench and discover blooms I hadn’t noticed before, or a plant I thought had died that is striving valiantly to live, or a plant that is in need of tending because it’s under attack by bugs or a disease. Then I feel useful. The garden is my favorite place because in it I can feel the kind of peace I do not feel anywhere else. At the end of a long day or early on a Saturday morning when I go into the garden and see the flowers, the trees and the birds I almost always smile because I am in a place of refuge where not much can intrude. In the garden I have choices to make. I can work: There is always plenty to do. I can turn a compost pile, or dig a hole for a newly acquired plant. I can indulge in the less physical but equally satisfying pleasure of deadheading flowers, or dividing perennials and potting them up for another spot in the yard or for a friend.

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