Perennial Christmas

The sedum bloomed beautifully, taller than most sedum and full but tightly constructed like a cheerleader’s pompon, just like it did the year before and the year before that. The difference was that as it grew, the stalks separated from the middle of the original plant, spreading all over that part of the garden and leaving a hole in the center that mildly annoyed the gardener but not enough to propel her to do anything differently.

She cut stalks and decorated her home with them, arranging them with sprigs of rosemary, a plant with the same sort of beautiful, unwieldy but predictable center-holing attributes.

The best thing about the sedum was that when it dried, it looked almost exactly as it had when it lived. The other best thing was that the seeds were easy to harvest, and the gardener did so each holiday season, tucking them into Christmas cards (real Christmas cards, often homemade) that she wrote for people she loved.

She found many people to love each year.

The most precious people were the same ones as the year before, and the year before that.

She knew good people and she knew good plants, with annoying habits and otherwise.

One night she sat alone in her house, a little sleep deprived and a little buzzed on red wine she’d enjoyed with one of those good people, and she realized that people and plants were the same because the world – lovely as it is – does not allow for too much deviation from what has already grown.

A Christmas tree glowed in the background.

A year ago she found herself alone and wrapping presents, feeling 50% sentimental and 50% melancholy, in a state of wonder about all the ways she and the world around her had changed in 12 months. That refrain would repeat, and repeat again. Fundamental change, when it happens, takes many lifetimes.

The sedum flourished. The gardener flourished.

It was Christmas.

The people who loved each other toasted another year, and were surprised at their surprise.

The Sweetest Little Moments from 2011

Keeneland; Lexington, Ky.

In no particular order, though I numbered them just to make it easier to read – here are some sweet little moments from my 2011. I think when you’re having a great time, every little bit of it sparkles.

1. Lily in the Heathrow airport: It is a complicated airport and we were racing to catch our connection to Bangalore, India, and we had to ride a shuttle, a train, and pass through several security clearances. Just getting to this point had been a bureaucratic nightmare, and I think my mother and I had our doubts we’d ever get to India. My daughter Lily, 9 at the time, never waivered. My favorite moment is standing on a shuttle, feeling a certain peace at our lack of control over the situation. I looked at Lily and she said very calmly, “We’ll make it.” I thought for the first of many times on that trip – Damn, she is so grown-up.

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Why we plant in Fall

Fall gardening could very well be the perfect object lesson in faith.

Also – patience, love and … what’s the word for when you need to let go and just give it to God, Nature or Happenstance?

I asked my mother to help me put my finger on it.

“Trust, surrender, submit, release,” she said.

Ah, yes.

Fall gardening is about deep roots. Continue reading

Home school

Pruning echinacea

Lily and I have needed some time for just the two of us.

So I took the day off work, and she took the day off fifth-grade, and the two of us took to the garden.

We planted 275 tulip bulbs, divided purple irises, pruned the echinacea and pulled up a bunch of weeds.

Here is what she learned, in her own words:

Three Things Learned About Gardening

1. With gardening, you have to have more topsoil to put atop the bulbs.

2. Inside a bulb, there is a smaller version (of the flower) that grows larger.

3. You must cut off parts of certain plants to make them grow back.

Three Things Learned From Gardening that Relate To Life

1. You have to have hope and faith that the flowers will grow along with (resolution to) many other sticky situations.

2. We are sort of like bulbs when it comes to being a small one and growing larger.

3. You should separate Lilys and irises and give them to friends as well as many other things in life.

Awesome kid. Beautiful day. Wonderful life.

A Living Will

A living will:

If I am ever incapacitated…

If I am ever chained inside my body or – God forbid – my mind…

If I am connected to machines to keep me breathing, and if I’m disconnected from the world that has kept me alive, please, please dear loved ones, know this – Know I am still here. I am still a part of this world. Do these things for me: Continue reading

A Timely Wind-Down

Tim Zurowski Photography

This weekend was domestic, pony-tailed, picket fences bliss.

I cleaned my house – really cleaned it.

I mowed the yard, pulled weeds, chatted with a neighbor who edged my part of the sidewalk just because he’s nice.

I spruced up the garden and planted fall annuals. Purple aster, yellow pansies.

Built a fire pit out back with the help of friends. “Dual-burning”, with sides for both hotdogs and s’mores!

Bicycled Williamson County’s mega hills and music star farms: Lynnwood Way, Hidden Valley, Moran Road, Del Rio Pike…

(My lovely riding partner was patient when I almost died on monstrous Lynnwood.)

Read a book on my patio, Billie Holiday tunes in the background.

Watched college football at my girlfriend’s parents’ house while our children played in the yard. (Both our alma maters lost, but the company compensated for it.)

Let my daughter hold a bake sale with cookies she made herself.

Ate Chinese delivery on the screened porch when I burned a pot of bean soup. The little group who ended up at my house Sunday night minded not a bit.

I watched hummingbirds – two of them (male and female) – flit around my backyard. I don’t have a feeder; they like the wisteria tangled through the fence.

I saw deer, twice; once on the street behind my house, and again on a pot-holed lane at the bottom of a giant bicycle decline.

I was softer, more patient with my child and her gaggle of neighborhood friends.

I shrugged off small disasters – the burned soup, et al.

I didn’t take the interstate anywhere. I didn’t stay up later than 10. I didn’t shoot any tequila.

My bike ride into the country was as far away from Franklin as I ventured – a first in more than a season’s time.

After a busy summer, it was a gentle reminder of how much I love my home, how nice it is to slow down, and what peace can come with a well-timed wind-down.

On growing flowers from seed…

For every seed, a tiny green shoot.

Not every one will make it.

None will, if you don’t thin them.

Provide space and water.

Early flowers sap energy from vulnerable young roots and tender foliage.

Pinch them away before they bloom in full.

Harvest seeds and share them.

When you visit your grandmother, plant some in her garden.

Visit your grandmother more often.

Understand the difference between seeds that need cultivating and seeds that need taming.

Let the self-seeders reseed, if you wish.

Seeds are low risk, high reward.

Plant many and don’t worry too much.

At season’s end, know: I grew this one from seed.

This one was mine from the beginning.

Who dares send flowers to a gardener?

 

Only the very brave give flowers to a gardener. This is too bad.

I understand the hesitation. It would be like cooking dinner for a chef or praying for a priest. Did you know therapists go to therapists who specialize in dealing with therapists? It must be horribly intimidating to send flowers to a woman who grows a yard full of them.

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And now it’s time for lilies

When we planted those tulip bulbs together last fall – yes, together – we knew only one of us would live in this house when they bloomed in the spring. As I dug holes and dropped them in the ground, my tears fell with them. You saw, you stopped what you were doing, and you joined me.

We talked and planted: bulbs and a new relationship. And I knew then, and maybe you did too, that we would be okay.

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