THE MORNING BREATH
“Do you have any honeysuckle?’ I asked the woman working in the perennial section at my local garden center.
“NO.” she stated with a pungent tone. “We try to get rid of honeysuckle, frankly.” Meaning that it was one of those pesky plants this particular garden center found to be a nuisance in a garden.
“Hmmfff. Go fuck yourself.”
That’s what I wanted to say. That was the bubble over my head, but I didn’t of course. I strutted out of there vowing for the millionth time to boycott yet another place on the planet with bad service. (and like all of my self imposed rules and regs, I broke the rule and went back and got way better service, second chances are kind, I am kind, right?)
This was two gardening seasons ago and as I left there with her snotty attitude towards my quest for a honeysuckle plant in hand, I thought about her nerve and of course her inability to be a great saleswoman. Afterall, she had no idea why I would be asking to buy a honeysuckle plant and her tone was insulting off the bat. Does anyone selling plants really know the behind the scenes reason for specific inquiries?
Fast forward to this early am. I am sitting on my back deck with my coffee cup after waking brightly at 4:15am ready to start the day with the cardinal voices outside my window. Reliable, my cardinal friends, they are there every morning for me and my friend, Dottie who I live next door to. Notice I did not say, ‘She lives next door to me,’ because Miss Dot has lived in the house next door to me for over seventy years and is the matriarch of the street for sure. We became fast friends the moment I met her over six years ago and we are huge cardinal fans (the birds not the team, please Red Sox forever for us) and being in our yard fans.
It is super bright and sunny back here at this early morning light of 7:14am. I have already done a boatload of things around my house, folded and put away laundry, straightened up a few things, talked to my aunt and my partner for my daily morning chat and now just basking in the glory of my garden feeling grateful and content in the moment.
Then out of the blue as I took that delicious deep breath, you know the one that reminds you of the power of the present right here right now, the pale yellow fragrant sweetness wafted right into my inhalation. Perfumey, bright, and soft, the honeysuckle plant I managed to find at a much cooler garden center two years ago has finally grown flowers and decided that I was worthy of the release of their sacred smell. Just when I was remembering to take that deep diaphragmatic breath, just when I was remembering in my busy brain of to do lists for my day to shut it the hell off and appreciate the here and now. Like the sweet chirp of the morning cardinal reminding me that yes, everything is going to be alright, the honeysuckle fragrance is the sound, the reminder in my olfactory system to be here. NOW.
I looked at its viney potential as it is working its way up my side railing to meet the wisteria on the other side and I smiled. I smiled because honeysuckle is not about a plant at a garden center two years ago. Honeysuckle is about Jamestown, RI in the summer with my brother in 1976. It is about the happiest time in our young lives when our parents still seemed happily married and we led a relatively normal life. It is about being outside until dark every summer night being surrounded by its nighttime fragrance. It is about the morning walking to school and seeing it growing wildly and learning to bite the end off to suck out the nectar. It is about teaching my son and the neighborhood children to do the same.
Honeysuckle is so much more than walking into a garden center to buy a plant, it is a childhood connection that is sweet and viney and messy and hard to control. It is about good enough, and imperfect. Honeysuckle is about not expecting the smell and then smelling it. It is about waiting for the flowers for two years and then like the magic that nature is, they appear just in time to remind a busy brain to rest and feel the love.
Death of a loved one especially such a young one is a traumatic experience. The thing I love about honeysuckle and all it represents to me is that I can call the memory of my brother back in a nanosecond just by seeing a honeysuckle plant or smelling one. I sit here this morning with my coffee feeling his warmth and his sweet smile, listening to the birds, seeing them fly around my garden knowing that at some point I will be sitting here and I will see a hummingbird at this nuisance of a plant that a bratty garden gal didn’t want to sell me. As I look up every few minutes from my writing today and look at the plant, I am so happy I kept looking for this plant two years ago. Even sweeter is knowing that I planted it after my first surgery and it is blooming after my second one. Blessed and grateful again for nature’s timing and its humble gifts when I look up and breathe. Imperfectly perfect.
Some garden moments this beautiful June 15th of a morning.