The Folding Gardens of Eden

Jeremy and I placed separate orders for our own portable Garden of Eden without peeking at each other’s designs. (His idea—I prefer doing things as a couple.) Our selected packages were top of the line, a bit of a splurge. (My idea—Jeremy has a tendency to scrooge.)  Heart’s Desire Level III included anything you could dream of in your personalized garden. “A unique idyllic world of flower and fauna, which reflects your innermost needs and desires” was how the advertising blurb described it. 

I loved designing my garden, and Jeremy was super engaged with his (which beat the pings and pops of his endless video games).

The evening before our gardens arrived, each in its own eight-inch-square box, we’d climbed through the kitchen window onto the fire escape to get some fresh air. What served as our outdoor space was always windy, and had what Jeremy called “an expansive panorama of the butt end of the city”. (Our rent budget was limited.)

The setting sun illuminated the air conditioning units on the rooftop opposite. In the distance, the view consisted of the lattice work of rusty overpasses, a vertical banner reading ‘Offices for Rent’, and a pink neon arrow pointing relentlessly to the entrance of Joachim’s Barber Shop. 

We sat with our knees scrunched together, and Jeremy said, “What the hell does that graffiti tag on the concrete even mean? Good thing I won’t have to see it anymore. The stupid thing makes me want to punch someone”. I scrambled inside after his proclamation. My stomach was scurrying. (I was the only person available to punch.)

I won the toss for whose garden would be revealed first. My breath nipped in with excitement, my hands trembling, I gently lifted my box lid. Only one Eden per household could be open at any time.

As soon as I undid the first fold, my paradise blossomed like a time-lapse video—and I cried out with joy. Jeremy and I held hands and stepped onto the winding stone path that started right at the window. (We both hesitated; it’s a one-hundred-foot drop to the street, but it seemed like solid ground extending beyond our apartment window). 

And it was. The exact country haven I had imagined. The greenest, lushest grass dotted with white speedwell, purple violets, and yellow buttercups. Rambling flower beds of Russian sage and lady’s mantle bordered the grass in gorgeous randomness. Pink muhly lorded over dusty miller, seclum, and blue surprise. I pronounced their names with care as I passed them, delighted to see my selections spring to life.

An orchard of trees crowded with bright apples led the way to my hidden arbor. Entwined in Zepherine climbing roses, the arbor sheltered a weathered wooden seat, and an old stone wall smothered in sweet honeysuckle, the feeding ground of buzzing bees and hovering hummingbirds. I sat on the seat and beamed up at Jeremy (we were no longer holding hands,)  but he frowned at my exuberant asters and kicked the edge of my moss-rimmed fish pond with one sandaled foot. (The sandals were strange—it was winter–and how was I cohabiting with a man who wore socks with his sandals?)

As my garden is a paradise, and therefore perfect, Jeremy’s kicking did no damage. Trying to keep the smugness out of my voice I said, “Let’s try yours.” 

Jeremy perked up at the suggestion, and we hurried through the window to refold my garden and unpack his. 

How do I describe Jeremy’s garden? It was very Jeremy, I realized, after my initial shock.

He had to explain the Full Sun Xeriscape, and I didn’t get the technical stuff about landscaping which needs minimal irrigation in desert climates. Only half listening to him, I wondered how I had lived intimately with a person whose perfect place was so…spare.

From the window, we stepped onto a Roman-road-straight path of gray river rock. The path led to a rectangular, beige courtyard, neatly sectioned with square plant containers filled with stones. A single star cactus squatted in the center of each container. Under the pergola, tinkling wind chimes flashed intense sunlight into my eyes. 

Jeremy (who wore shades, knowing he would need them) blathered on about how the rows of identical containers provided a rhythmic structure which he found soothing in a pared-down, minimalist way.

From a corner, a dragon lizard stared at me with indifferent, ancient eyes. The air smelled lifeless, a smothering hand over my face. Onerous heat leaned into my chest.

Jeremy surveyed his garden with pride, and then turned to me, clearly expecting questions. I had only one; when he had designed his heaven on Earth, where on Earth had he envisioned it being?

“Arizona,” he said. His tone implied, “where else?”

We stood quietly for a long time, during which I experienced an urge to smash the wind chimes into the river rock. 

“What about you?” Jeremy finally asked. “Where’s your garden?”

“Oxfordshire, England.”

“Ah.” Jeremy rattled one foot over the container stones, his mouth downturned in disdain.

~

My garden is back in its package (inside my suitcase). Jeremy is meditating under his pergola. 

When I get to Mom’s, I am going to write a review. I’ll suggest The Folding Gardens Company develop a Partners in Paradise package, where you jointly create a combined vision of your ideal sanctuary using a process of discovery and collaboration (preferably before the couple engages in cohabitation).

But I don’t want to dis The Folding Gardens of Eden. It’s a fantastic concept. The self-knowledge I’ve gained through this experience — incredible. What a gift to truly understand your heart’s desire. Look, I can unfold my unique utopian garden anywhere and my Eden will be in full bloom always. And should a juicy apple tempt me, I’ll pick one, then sit on my bench and enjoy it (alone).

About the author:

Elizabeth Collis is a writer from Nova Scotia, Canada. Her recent fiction has appeared in Progenitor Art and Literary Journal, Flash Fiction Magazine, The South Shore Review, and elsewhere. Visit her at www.elizabethcollis.com Twitter: @ElizabethCollis Instagram:@collis.elizabeth

Header Image: Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash, digitally altered by Teresa Berkowitz

3 thoughts on “The Folding Gardens of Eden

  1. A thought provoking story Elizabeth! You are such a descriptive and imaginative writer. Now I have to ‘google’ all those plants you mentioned in your story!

    Liked by 1 person

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