Each season, as I walk around my yard, I look at all the beauty out there... most of my plants came from somebody - well, half of them, anyway. As I look at this or that camellia, clump of daffodils, even some of my trees, I think about the people that gave them to me - most of those folks are gone now - but as the beauty of their loving gift lives on - they live on. I treasure each bloom, and my heart talks to the one who gave it to me. I send them a little prayer of thanks, be they here or moved on, and pray for their peace and comfort, wherever they are, and that they may have beauty in their current or new life.
This morning, my grandfather's favorite peony opened. He died in 1954. At the time, I was his only grandchild. Our house in the Poconos has a tenth of a mile of road frontage, most of it planted in now very old peony bushes, all planted by Grandpop. My dad dug this one (and a few others) and brought them here. It’s like a Memorial garden, my place. Old friends and lovers, relatives and acquaintances, former students, neighbors, are all represented in my yard. Each plant, each bloom, is a token of love.
Just yesterday, an old pick-up pulled in the yard, with a middle aged guy and an elderly woman. I did not know them. The gentleman apologized for bothering me… but explained how his mother always made him slow down when they drove past my place. She sat there and just grinned the biggest grin. “Mama’s eye sight ain’t what it used t’ be,” he said, “But she can still see the bright colors of yer ‘zalyers and camalyers, and, what’s them things?” he said pointing to the peonies just opening. “Funny, ain’t it how the camelyers bloom in the winter time? Mama loves to see the red ones in the snow. Made me drive out in that snow last winter just to see your bushes.” The old lady was nodding her head up and down.
“Well, I prob’ly shun’da stopped an’ bothered ye, but mama seen ya out in the yard and wanted to say Thank ye fer bringing a bit of beauty to her world.” (Ye is not part of a religious group speak – it is just part of the old Eastern Shore dialect spoken by many of the old farmers and watermen.)
“Thank ya!” the old woman said as he backed the truck back out onto the road. She waved a little wave with gnarled, tanned fingers, aged by years of hard work. I could just see those hands plucking chickens, pickin’ crabs, canning tomatoes and preserves. She would have recipes in her head for the best pickled watermelon rind, and know exactly how long to cook soft-shelled crabs. I wondered how many diapers those hands had changed and washed and hung on the line to dry. How many little shoes had she tied? How hard had her life been? But how much joy had been there also? How many children did she have? Had she had to bury any of them? And how lucky she was to have a son to take her out on a nasty winter’s day to see my red camellias in the snow, or pull in my yard to thank me for bringing a bit of beauty to the world. That is love. And that is why I work so hard out there.
But sometimes beauty comes in different packages… not always flowers. Living here in a rural area, I get to see a lot of critters people in cities just never get to see. (Although we DID have a MOOSE walk up the street in front of our house in Portland, Maine!) Some critters are all too obvious, the deer running across the road or nibbling on the shrubbery, the coons getting into the left over cat food… but, some of them are not obvious at all, just a chance sighting every now and then. Possum sightings are few, as are seeing foxes, both gray and red, but they are there. Looking up as a shadow passes over, one might see the local bald eagle or a red-tailed hawk. Looking down, there is a world of little critters, blue tailed skinks being the most obvious, and on to the tiny critters with 6 legs.
As I type this, there is an orchard oriole in the ground level birdbath. But he seems to notice any movement at the window, so the pictures come up empty. They are rare around here. Yet cardinals are common as are the bright, flashy little goldfinches that hangout in my yard. Might it be all the thistle feeders I have? Let it be said, I do not take them for granted. I do ply them with feeders filled of their favorite snacks! Of my 4 pairs of cardinals that have spent the winter here, I have found the nesting places of 3 of the couples and their babies. One family is in the huge Acuba outside the bathroom window, the other 2 families are in camellias. I am not sure about couple #4.
Once in a while, looking straight ahead holds some amazing surprises. I almost leaned my shovel against this tree trunk – caught it just in time – and came inside to grab the camera. This happy couple were fortunately still there resting on the tree trunk. Even driving by on the tractor and loading tons of mulch a couple feet away did not disturb them. But then, they are Luna moths, and they only fly around at night.
If you know me at all, you know how difficult it is to walk and do things, but staying as active as possible helps my serenity. Working out in the yard and having my little veggie garden “does something” for me. There is a sense of peace playing in the dirt, and a sense of comfort from being surrounded by so much beauty and the gifts from those who love and have loved me. And there is always the 4 legged company I have whenever out in the yard, the little yellow cat that rolls over to get his tummy rubbed. He, too, was a gift… a gift that blew in on a hurricane, Hurricane Isabel. I wonder who loved him before I did. This is his home now, and he guards it fiercely. I don’t know for sure what happened to him to make him leave his first home all those years ago, but he, too, has found peace here.
Life is good.