WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
Big plans this morning as usual. I have a lot to get into my schedule because I have to work at 9 today. Gardening, writing and a bike ride are in the forefront of my plans. Waking up at 6am, a little late for this early bird, coffee already brewing thanks to Michael C. and I am off and running. Well not really running, moving. Brush my teeth, wash my face and oil it up, throw on my gardening dress and those trusty red plastic gardening Birkenstocks and grab my compost bucket to get my ass outside where glory awaits. If I don’t start watering and weeding at the early am, the computer calls to me and so does my writing. I love that part of my morning ritual, but my garden does not and life and the plants that are its bounty deserve my first awakening once gardening season is upon me.
I manage to balance my turquoise metal compost bucket on one wrist, my Life is Good black coffee filled mug in the other and make my way from my second floor habitat to the fragrant beauty that lies before me. I bring my bucket to the back compost area created in memory of my dear friend and compost expert, Ros and add to the pile, opening the homemade bin that works just fine now that I have some compost wisdom under my gardening belt. Buying a compost bin is almost laughable now that I have taken a gigantic trash bin, drilled holes everywhere for the air and water and for less than fifty dollars, I have a golden pile of joy steaming and working like nature simply does when you stop trying to control it.
But these are the lessons of nature and gardening. And life, actually. Leaning in, accepting, allowing and most importantly cutting back. I have noticed that the more I cut my plants, the more they come back with a vengeance as if to say, thanks for the haircut, I am stronger and more vivacious with the energy you have bestowed upon me. So I march forth to the hose and turn on the water while Michael sits on the back deck reading the NYT. The cardinals are quiet today as I begin my almost daily routine of watering my immense beds and pots. I am filled with peace as the shoots have tripled since yesterday, the soon to be bright red hibiscus is growing at a pace that I can’t comprehend. Where does their energy come from? Yes I know science 101, sun, soil, worms, light, water, oxygen = growth, but what makes this all work? I contemplate the workings of life and nature as I water happily, taking sips of my coffee that follows my path placing my cup on the various resting places when it is not in my hand. I bend to notice why some of my basil and tarragon is not doing so well when the oregano and bay leaf plant is growing at a rate that gardeners dream about. I am at peace, completely and utterly present to myself and I think back to last year at this time when I couldn’t really even bend to garden because I was recovering from a double mastectomy. Last year at this time, gardening was a chore, something that overwhelmed me and I had to allow it to just be what it was going to be along with the help I had to ask for. I reflected back on how I had made the commitment to be part of a garden tour for the Bristol Art Museum and somehow managed to pull this off. Was that only last year?
Each gardening season reminds me of last gardening season and the season that is ahead as I make note of what will be cut and moved for the fall. Divide and conquer more like it. Purple iris’ need to be shared in the back left where I could swear last year had a full bed. This year lots of empty space. My lambs ears, usually a super easy plant that makes me so happy decided not to return this year. To do, to do, to do. The lists are endless as I contemplate my day realizing that the porch and my writing will usurp my bike ride today as there is only so much time in the early morning to fit in all I desire.
Today I am reading a eulogy that I wrote for a young woman’s funeral who died from an overdose. Heroin. Another great spirit taken by addiction. I had known her since she was three and I dated her dad when we were both far too young to be doing anything other than dating. She was thirty nine when she died and I hadn’t seen her for well over twenty five years since her addiction became her best friend.
As I gardened this morning, I am filled with moments of poignant memories of a time in my life many people who know me now would not recognize. But these are the formative years that build the character of these later ones. The whys and the whats are all part of who I have become today. I sit here this morning rereading the eulogy for the tenth time to practice the momentum of its pace and its pauses so I can try to contain the emotion that it will likely bring as I look into the eyes of my past life. The unique view I have the privilege of being part of today is that I get to be a bookend for her life. I was there at the early days, like a new planting and I am here today at the end like a plant that can’t be saved even though you want it to come back next year. Sometimes nature has just run its course and it is time to go. Funerals are like bookends. They bring together the past and the present with the old faces from my childhood that were once young and breathless and are now filled with lines and etchings of the past thirty five years. Sadness coupled with the joy of seeing old friends are the only part of the funeral experience that make it bearable. I sit here today as I finish my writing with the bittersweet feelings of looking forward to going and also the intense sadness of the loss mixed up like the compost in my backyard. Just as I finish, the waft of the first smell of the blooming honeysuckle that reminds me always of my young life in Jamestown, makes its way into my nose and my heart. Besides this, there is silence. The cardinals and the birds are not singing to me today because it is like they know that a life has been taken too young to sing about.