When I first came to my semi-rural home prison in 2009, each entrance to its nine widely separated cellblocks was graced by well-tended flower gardens. Each circular plot, approximately fifteen feet in diameter, sported a variety of vividly hued flowers that were watered, pruned, and weeded by inmate gardeners. From early May to late October, the aesthetic senses of visitors and residents alike thrilled to the showy pastiche of the colorful and exotic blossoms, whose nectar attraced swarms of bees and butterflies, additional specks of welcome color. Their darting swoops appeared to baste the sky's blue hem to the green skirt of the earth.
The spacious lawns between each cellblock were accented with a few small treees and hip-high shrubs, each tree a haven for nesting songbirds, every shrub a shaded refuge for nocturnal toads, and every garden a sanctuary for the odd cottontail rabbit or two. Come spring, a pair of red-winged blackbirds nested in the red maple outside my second-floor efficiency "loft", each fall, the songbirds long-departed, the maple's vermilion foilage brightened the ever-shortening days.
Across from the entrance to the Education Building, home of my favorite destination, the library, stood a pair of the three-foot-tall shrubs, which from early may to late Octobver bore hundreds of star-shaped yellow blossoms. Thinking that my oldest daughter, as well as her two younger sisters might love them as much as I did, I made efforts to find out what they were called. I asked several maintenance workers--"brown shirts" in prison lingo--if they knew, but they wouldn't even hazard a guess. Hoping that the female staff members might possess a more finely tuned sense of beauty, I questioned the librarian, her assistant, and a few lady-type teachers. But to my chagrin, they didn't know the name of the lovely shrubs either, so I abandoned the search. Still, I had the existing consolation of their multi-faceted beauty, and each tiny flower remained a summer-long example of natures benevolent extravagance, its ability to cheer the hearts of its noblest creatures, while providing shelter and sustenance to its least.
The seasons turned, the years rolled by, the shadow of my cellblock's red maple grew longer as the sun-scribed arc of its tip-top branch spread its reach each year, and generations of fledling blackbirds sang paeans to its favor.
Then, during a routine cell search five years ago, a crudely fashioned shiv was discovered. Upon investigation, it appeared that the make-shift weapon had been whittled from a small branch of an unspecified tree. Or possibly a shrub. Who knew? When presented with the particulars of this infraction, the warden or one of his underlings resolved the potential threat posed by the threat of any future woodworking armorers by ordering the removal of every tree and shrub, an arboreal holocaust reminischent of the ancient Crusader genreal's order to "kill them all" (the intermixed rabble of Christians and heretics) "and let God sort them out!" Within a week, every tree and shrub was terminated with extreme prejudice, as the banshee wail of pittilies chain saws was heard throughout the now barren campus.
Well, I rationalized, at least we nature lovers still had the flower gardens to gratify our pastoral appreciation. And for one more summer, we did, until the fatefull morning that one of the gardeners was found lying upon his back amongst the daffodils and tulips, tripping out, like a ressurected Timothy Leary on his assigned quota of moonflower seeds, purchased by some clueless bureaucrat functionary who was unaware that the plant was a kissing cousin to its psychedelic coeval, the moring glory vine. Instead of reprimanding the unhip purchasing agent (firing him or her would require the intercession of God) and enrolling him or her in a mail-order course in horticulture, the powers that were simply ordered the immediate uprootingf of every flower, and just like that--FFFT!--ended forever the flower bed program.
Now, three years later, an all-to-brief explosion of spring dandelions offers the only relief to the vast swatches of green lawn; heard no more are the songs of robins and there are only the faint fairy ring circumferences of the gone-to-grass flower beds to remind me of their bygone glory. How I yearn for just one more summer on the family farm of my memory, where an innocent lad once saw heavenin every wildflower!