Baker's dream: song of the garden


Photo: Pat Mannino

One particular morning, though I love what I do, the call of my backyard garden turned, a determined siren’s song, too loud and too strong. Irresistible as it twisted and turned squirming into crevices I barely knew existed.

"Stay focused," I muttered, squeezing buttercream onto a cupcake. My level of skill, notably that of beginner, requires a slow and steady hand. For some reason, on this day, restraint and good sense abandoned, my racing mind swiftly found its own escape.

Sharp clean edges eluded me as I squeezed and fumed. Undefined molten frosting formed almost unrecognizable blobs. Panic surged at the back of my throat. Bile strong as acid seared tender tissue, lingered, an unpleasant reminder, bitter as lemon pith. Perfection is always my goal. Only one solution remained: each and every cupcake immediately scraped clean.

The kitchen tightened around me, claustrophobic as I struggled. I was finding it difficult to inhale, to draw in even one cleansing breath. Called like a moth to a flame, a mad dash the only solution, a desperate rush for fresh air.

Heeding the siren’s call, to the far side of the garden I traveled, where hostas, tree stumps and limestone chunks stood in for a primal paradise.

Constant motion, mesmerizing, dappled sunlight and shade, intricate patterns rippled, waves lapping, finding rest, disappearing into the edge of the blacktop path.

The ancient honey locusts, tall as the very house, turned and twisted, half bare. Branches the size of sapling trees hanging by mere strips of shaggy bark. Disfigured, wonderfully ugly, beautiful as they stand, as any tree that has taken root, sweet scented blossoms true to their name filling the space with perfume.

Almost too much to take in. I found myself between reality and the edge of a dream.

If there be God. If, by consequence, there be Heaven, could greater wonder, greater beauty be imagined, could pen set to paper ever form words to describe?

Alone, but not: in a sense surrounded, a peace as deep as infinity. Truth be told…. indeed, we are all one.

Rockton writer Pat Mannino is the owner of Fatt Cat Cafe in Rockton, where she makes cupcakes and hosts special events. To place an order, call her at 815-624-2832 or email

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