What's up? A lot! But like many of you I've been busy celebrating our nation's independence, my birthday on the 3rd and my brother's on the 5th. There's hardly been a moment to sit still and when I have I seem to doze off in front of the computer. So, I'm headed to bed with promises to blog soon. In the meantime, enjoy this photo of Alfie checking out a plant while I transplant it. I love her expression here. Happy Belated Fourth everyone!
Deadlines loom this weekend. I have three articles due at once and have largely spent the last three days at the kitchen table transcribing recordings of interviews. Rain has been falling off and on throughout the week and while I have sat inside working, the plants in my father’s garden have grown and bloomed.
Dad wanted tomatoes and cucumbers this year; one of only a few attempts at gardening since we lived here. A few years ago, he decided on tomatoes just in time for a tomato blight to strike the region. Yet, in his eagerness to plant his garden this time around, he seemed to forget that he would not be home. Dad travels for work and thus, the ongoing maintenance of his garden became mine. I purchased a watering can, graduated to the garden hose, battled an unwavering onslaught of weeds and even borrowed four tomato cages from my best friend to ensure the plants would not topple under their own weight. Today, on a break from the rain and my work, I went outside to discover the cucumber plants had begun to flower, a marigold-yellow blossom peeking out amidst the green. It grew under my hand, but changed under my nose while I was busy with storms and work. Life happens that way -- all our efforts eventually yielding a surprising result. Growth leads to blossoms and amidst the rain and because of our work, we bloom – bright, yellow and glorious.
I do not plant my own garden, but I revel in the gardens of others. Across from my house, in an island of pavement is a small grassy triangle. Members of the community maintain this small, patch of earth each spring by planting flowers that change as the season progresses – evolving from tulips and daffodils to daisies and irises. I await the arrival of the first buds each year, seeing them rise as the sun ascends and shares its warmth with us. It is my signal that spring is upon us. Every time I see her, I rush to inform one of the women in town, the one who helps tend this garden, how much it means to me. She seems thankful, if sedate, as I gush over the flowers. Her own lawn is equally adorned, so perhaps she cannot digest just how much I appreciate her efforts, how tied I am to those blossoming patches of color across the lawn. They have been a backdrop for photos of my nieces and nephews, a garden hideaway to retreat amidst the fairies, a place to witness their inner men and women emerge as they strike magical poses well beyond their years. It has allowed me a reprieve from computers and deadlines, a minute field in which to roam for 10 minutes, camera in hand. It has been a place to say goodbyes, a train platform to see my dying dog off to another world.
Vader died a year ago June 1st and for the month leading up to his death, my nieces, nephews and I would frequently tote his limp form, along with his constant companion, his stuffed “Humpie Doggie” across the road to sit him in the flowers and allow him a few moments of sun. His body carved out a small sunken dent in the hollow of the flower bed and I imagine I see it there still, although the flowers this year have arranged themselves in a different pattern. There are yellow irises now, tons of them, although last year I remember varied colors. It would be easy to say that the color has faded since Vader’s death, but it is not true. I miss him, but the world is warm and golden. Waffles and Alfie frolic in the back yard and wait eagerly by the gate as I water the tomato plants my father chose to plant this year. Life wilts and grows, ebbs and flows.
The grandmother of the boy I loved is dying in the garden room of the local hospital where my grandmother, too, passed away. He and his cousins make plans to fly home for her funeral even while she remains alive. Our lives are busy and do not slow, but the world is green and full; the sky blue with marshmallow clouds. If we had a choice, we would not leave it today. We would sit in the garden and enjoy it a spell, feeling the warmth on our faces, reveling in the life around us.
I try to remember this. So on the anniversary of his death, I visited Vader’s tree on our front lawn; the place where I had rested with him in the hours before his death, looking up at the leafy canopy, embracing the light from the sun. I stretched out on the dirt and grass, not caring if my dress clothes became grass stained and soiled and I looked up once again – thankful for his small life and all the life that has occurred in the year he’s been gone. I sat up and stared across the lawn at his garden, thinking how tall my nieces and nephews had grown in a year, how much life had changed – my niece Ellie was only a baby in a basket when she visited last Memorial Day, now she is a rambunctious toddler – “go, go, go” is her catchphrase. I got Waffles once Vader was gone, joined a Writer’s Group, gave a reading, welcomed and bid farewell to three classes of students, started a blog. I traveled to Laguna Beach, Washington D.C., Woodstock, NY. My brother went off to boot camp and my Mom had a cataract removed. I wrote articles and stories, drew pictures and paintings. My niece spoke my name. Life is full. We bud and we bloom. We bid goodbye. And, on a good day we are aware of it all and thankful for our gardens.
Writing Prompt: Return to a memory from last year. Write about it.