When I left home 10 days ago, our yard still looked brown and rather sad after the long winter, except for the few splashes of color the early spring daffodils were bringing. As I walked outside today, I noticed how the grass is new spring-green, the flowering crabapples are laden with the beginning of blossoms, seed pods hang from the tips of the river birch branches, and tulips are peeking up to join the daffodils.
Honestly, I am having to work to notice the beauty; my first thought was how much work I saw: dead perennial stalks waiting to be removed, grass growing up in the beds where it doesn’t belong, suckers needing to be pruned from the base of trees, and yes, even the first weeds. Sigh.
Last week I spent my days hearing stories at The Journey. Stories brought connection to the men and women I sat with in group, life in all its raw ache and beauty, movement and growth and blooming. It struck me today that my garden has stories to tell as well, and remembering those will help me focus on the beauty rather than just the work.
The hostas that line my front walkway are growing larger; it will be time for another split soon. I remember our very first home, built along with hundreds of others in an empty farm field outside Chicago. After saving for the down payment, we didn’t have much extra; there was no budget for ornamental plants to break up the simple expanse of grass meeting concrete foundation. One day my neighbor walked over with a few large clumps of hostas, explaining that hers were getting too large and needed to be split; would I like some? I’d never grown a hosta, much less split one, but it sounded easy enough to cut sections down through the root ball and replant, so I gave it a try. In my eagerness to fill as much space as possible, I cut the plants into many smaller plants, praying they would survive. Survive they did, growing strong and full, giving me the confidence I needed that I might be able to do this gardening thing after all.
Over the years since, I’ve had hostas at every home, and each time I split them I remember the simple kindness of a welcoming neighbor bringing beauty to a barren place. Another friend and mentor give me the gift of her garden extras several years ago, long enough ago that they have since multiplied several times over. She taught me more about perennials and the importance of tending, not just planting and being done (which I have a tendency to do.) She modeled the simple beauty of sharing from a place of abundance – both her flowers as well as her heart for pouring into younger women. I love picturing her face as I witness the Dutch Iris come to life with their blue-purple blooms atop slender stems and the Shasta Daisies spread their cheery white blooms later in the summer as we sit by the pool on warm summer days.
Tucked under my spreading lilac bushes is a miniature rose bush, bought on a May day 14 years ago. My beloved grandmother had been moved to hospice, and I wanted to take advantage of every moment with her since I’d missed so many in the years we’d lived away from Michigan. I picked out the rose that day to bring to her room because she had wanted to be called Rose in her later years (rather than Roelina), our daughter was named Katherine Rose in her honor. I remember how Katie, not quite 2 at the time, showed her Oma the cut she had gotten on her hand that morning, remember the gentleness of my Grandma taking her little hand in her own wrinkled one, kissing it better. One week later, she was gone; my mom gave me back the potted rose when they cleaned out her room.
We were landscaping our large yard that spring from scratch since our house was new construction. The rose claimed a special spot, next to the little sign that was in my grandma’s garden.
The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth
The simple reminder of the nearness of God in the midst of these new blooms and buds and memories and stories is good for me to hold today.
Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity. Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 25 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.