September 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Pop.

Yesterday was my dad's birthday. He would have been 81, but he slipped through my hands in a hospital room a couple of years ago. Actually, he slipped through my hands when I was little and he left our backyard for greener pastures. My thoughts of him recently have been wide and wondering. I have thought about his deep rich voice and his love. I've thought about the unanswered questions that didn't go unanswered for lack of asking, but for the lack of clarity, depth and self-knowledge required. I have thought about his laughter and the way I often felt like he was in cahoots with me in some way of thinking or adventure.
A week or so ago, my friend John took us on a ride around the block. John is taking care of his brother's '63 VW Van (in perfect restoration). My eldest dug the backseat with the refrigerator and surfboard. And my youngest giggled with laughter, sitting in the front seat, being bumped as the very long stick shift shifted. The sound of the motor and the feel of the drive brought to mind the winter, turned spring then summer Dad restored my own VW. A '72 bright orange Superbeetle Convertible we'd bought for a song (well, actually, an aria) that went from wreck to vision in those long months. I thought about the anticipation, the updates, the long drive home when it was really mine and the music of the radio as well as the engine. I recalled the drives around the block to see how she was running and the thrill of knowing that this project would be mine.
Last night my daughter showed me the cover of her new journal, entitled "Dear Grampa." Without a word between us, she too has been thinking about him a lot lately. When she showed me the book, she explained that it's not for me to read. It is instead, a special place for her to share the things that grow in a young girls heart with the man who gave her five nicknames in five minutes, took her on her first nighttime swim and snuck candy to her from behind his back while I (kinda) wasn't looking.
So in this day my heart is full of gratitude, in the midst of oceanic loss, for the small things. And I realize with great relief, that small things drenched in the acting of love and held in our hearts, are sometimes the very big things in our lives.

September 15, 2009

The changing garden grows.

There is a beautifully written song which entered with the little littles in my life. My friend Ivan made me buy my first Raffi album: Banana Phone. Who would know it included the sweet, poetic loving song? "The Changing Garden of Mr. Bell" is a song about the relationship between two neighbors. I'm moved by the idea of this younger man learning about the older through visits to his home and garden. One of the lines sticks with me. In reply to a direct question about a photograph of the young Mr. Bell with a woman and child, Mr. Bell says, "See how the garden grows. It's always changing every day." For me there's full poetry in the sentence.
I love the literal truth of the changing garden. Since we've inhabited this old house of ours, I've planted, replanted, transplanted, placed, replaced and ultimately loved my garden spaces much. There have been years of more and less attention, a particularly hilarious weeding venture when I was eight or so months pregnant (nesting is not restricted to the indoors), help from friends and family and a year where I learned that winter gardening was a profitable method for working through my dad's passing. When I moved past the trial and error method and studied a little, I began to notice each plant's contribution to the garden through it's timing.  I learned, and left behind the thought that all the joy comes in the springing. I found myself this week waiting and waiting for the sun's move and the blooming of my Japanese Anemones (which are really Chinese). They have finally sent their blooming shoots up and buds are puffing, gestating.
The freesia will soon follow. I was plucking their stems out of the big clay pot they inhabit thinking they were volunteers from the neighbor's many palm trees. Now, I await them. The pointed leaves preceding stems that give way to the dear flowers with the tea-like fragrance. The roses are still prolific and the hollyhock spent.
My friend John, an artist, made a passionate recommendation for my Western Redbud trees when there was space for the planting. He pointed to the beauty they provide each season. The pink buds of Spring, the Summer's green-then-purple seed pods, the leaves turning and dropping in Fall, then the Winter turned-brown pods on the gray of the wood. They are green now, but beginning to hint about the browning to come. All coinciding, all contributing to the changing nature of the changing garden. 
From the literal I'm reminded of the metaphor. Here is where I'm willing to be a bit to be more aware of the wilting and blooming cycles accompanying life's vicissitudes. And perhaps, in this awareness, I can be a little more welcoming of the less productive, less beautiful parts of the cycle and trust the unapparent processes. That which contributes to the changing of the garden.

These are Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida) layered in front of Lambs Ear (which loves to run wild in my little front garden patch).


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