Freedom from Rain

Rainy weather working its foggy magic on a landscape is beautiful. A rainy day encourages introspection. Or at the very least a nap. I love the rain in all of its spirited and benign forms. But we have had rain day after day without much respite. This is rain of a different sort. Too much rain foments rot both above and below ground. Too much rain spoils blooms. Too much rain dampens the spirit. We have had all of the aforementioned. 

Deborah Silver

Is it the rain or the cold that gets to my weary bones far beyond the havoc it reigns in the garden landscape?

Perhaps the dry-out late in July that parches the land through the Fall is even worse, when my soul aches for a simple cup of relief?

How will I look back on this season of my own life where moments of respite, nourished from the right care gives way to occasional relapse and now tragedy?

Alas my dear brother, survived with me but not with our youngest, Rob, lies in a coma amidst the sterile hum of machines you could never repair

In your appliance servicing days let alone fix your own broken spirit from never quite fitting into the affections of our Dad but perhaps too much by our Mom?

What is Mike’s world like right now: can he hear the buzz, taste the plastic tube down his throat, smell the air now sanitized and finally free of cigarette smoke?

I ache for you as I did for Rob. You two never did get the advantages I had as the oldest nor fight long enough for better despite our childhood traumas.

Or perhaps that first year of my life cinched it when there was more love to give in both bloodlines . . . oh how I wish I could go back and carve more out for you!

The Lord grieves for us three as now you are now in the juxtaposition from time to eternity. It’s just not how He meant it to be you know.

I will love you forever Mike. Godspeed if this is the end. Go to your Maker and live at last, totally freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

A rain garden rises from the soil and rocks, bringing beauty and purification. Consider this a sign in the natural world of His creation that imitates the glory of a life surrendered to Christ.

What would suit her best?

That funny bush with the orange berries

That I found tucked in a nursery corner

Was her birthday gift many decades ago

And became another treasure of uniqueness, much like that of her own.

Or the specimen discovered from the zoo

When she found the groundskeeper

And pleaded to give her a cutting

To grow with her collection of rare finds and vagabond species too.

Perhaps the devil’s tongue would be it

That bloomed in the closet each Winter

With a stink much worse than her smokes

And a tropical canopy outside in summer:  uniquely placed in the Midwest.

Surely she would be planted on the hill

Where the orange pavers from Woodstock days

Used to mark the side door to the home

Laden with so many memories and metal trash cans covering some of them too.

Oh I’ll bet she’s still out there somewhere

For her ashes got sprinkled into the earth

Forever mixed with the fruit of her hands

And beautiful gardens, a spa, some whimsy, all in squared borders of suburban fare.

Oh mom, how I miss you this day

As I tend to my own soil and dig

Preparing for Spring flowers and food

Adding amendments, turning it over again until everything crumbles just right.

One plant in particular we share

From your garden and mine:

Those “bee bush” perennial sedum

That you made me edge around in the hot summer sun by back-breaking hand!

Oh how you would love

To see me hail a sharpened spade

Defining my borders so clean with

Just one more bed added most years ’cause it’s also a passion for me borne from you.

Maybe the climbing Baffin rose

I will dedicate to you, Rose Anne:

A rambler, a bit wild yet beautiful

Yes this you shall be in my garden scrapbook come alive where you and me will always meet.

JJ

William Baffin, roses, fuscia, pink, red, climbing, vines, fence, garden
Fuscia William Baffin Climbing Roses

 

Now for some horticulture therapy!

 

Some good things noted in our gardens this year included:

  • Plants from our local Master Gardener Plant Sale did really well at bargain prices; patience paid off by the end of the season for the new rose bush ($5) and 2 tomato plants ($1 each).
  • Variegated liriope (with the purple flower spikes) was a great addition to our newest island bed (until the rabbits found them!)
  • Around the flagstone patio, the hydrangeas, Japanese maple, dwarf mugo pine, and Golden Thread cypress have matured to form a nice screen between us and the neighbors.
  • We got a nice showing from the (clumping) bamboo through continuous soil enhancements and 7 years of waiting.
  • The hydrangea vine that now covers a great deal of the trellis by the front door bloomed for the 2nd Spring in a row after waiting 6 years.
  • Elle continue to love drinking out of the bird bath almost as much as the birdies.
  • The anise hyssop re-seeded itself at the base of the trellis on the left of the patio instead of the right this year.
  • Walker’s Low Catmint is the most profuse blooming perennial I have ever seen.
  • Painting the planters black that adorn the bird bath was a good idea, helping to keep the focus on the annuals planted within them.
  • I got to make a lovely Fall wreath from our hydrangea blooms (picture to follow).
  • Dahlias never disappoint; I’m glad I planted all 3 of them in the front yard this year.
  • We are grateful for our first, ever-bearing harvest of blackberries since establishing the raised bed 4 years ago.

Footnotes for improvements next year:

  • Put hardware cloth (wire fencing) in front of the mulch pile to keep out critters from dining on new additions.
  • Move the wisteria by the left trellis and the cannas from between the trellises to sunnier areas.
  • Install a new and permanent mylar deterrent above the bluebird house to scare off intruders.  Ours blew off!
  • Coach our plant sitters a little more carefully when we are away to keep the cucumbers from perishing.
  • Thin out the native plant bed to help keep ahead of the lemon balm re-seeding and Catmint spreading.
  • Re-work the new strawberry bed area to save time trimming around everything.
  • Oh and about 15 other projects!  Is a gardener’s work ever really done?

Thank you Lord for your bounty and beauty, the grace and strength to keep things going as best as I could, the blessings of sharing our harvest with others, and for a lovely view out my window on the days you know I needed it most.  You are so good to me!  JJ

The Dad that never left

Perhaps it is more of a blessing than anything else that I have more time for reflection these days.  After the double-loads of laundry, medical management, treatment-and-recovery, self care, and various household duties are completed, there are generally more hours than in my past to think about the stuff of life.  On Father’s Day yesterday, I started to notice some new parallels between my past and present.  It went something like this.

I was posting a picture of my Dad and me on Facebook when I realized how his generosity when he stepped back into my life has become an important part of my current recovery from serious illness.  His gift about 6 years ago allowed me to create a garden oasis in our backyard.  Here are two of my favorite areas:

Creating the flagstone patio area required graph paper, a ruler, tape measure, and endless gazing from all angles to make the kidney-bean shaped layout meet the vision the Lord had given me.  In the next 2 years the process continued with a pair of 8-foot custom steel trellises then a “secret garden” area (basically a re-purposed dog pen!).  The planting beds came later as I decided that we needed more privacy from our neighbors behind us and that I wanted to have a garden-view beyond each room of the house.  The bed on the right in the 2nd picture is largely of native plants and a key component in earning a Sustainable Garden designation from our local cooperative extension office.  The aqua custom shade sail was an incredible find from the “sale” page of a company by the same name.  Now that the design is complete the plants have matured and my heart is home.

Dontcha know that my mom was a gardener?  She would hunt down the groundskeeper at the local zoo if needed to obtain a plant start of a specimen she just needed to have in her yard.  Composting, vegetables, a mounded hill, hanging baskets around the hot tub spa . . . she had all the elements that made her heart happy out there in her suburban back

Mom in Spa

yard.  Her creation came together because of the generosity of her parents too.  Some may call it an inheritance.  I call it the chance to create something beautiful from the sorrow of a lost family member.  And I think it’s o.k. to spend some of it to make the process of going on without him or her a little nicer.  Do something that makes your heart happy!

Flash forward 4 years from when the “bones” of our own garden were installed and I am exceedingly grateful for what the Lord has allowed me to design, to create.  Lying sickly on that chaise lounge last summer when it looked like there would be little hope for recovery, brought solace of sorts.  Lying sickly on that same chair this summer after taking treatments that are slowly giving me my life back is bringing hope and the flow of some new creative juices.  My husband, Steve, just smiles a bit when I talk like this.  He knows that could mean a little more trimming around a new garden bed or hauling of something heavy to make it happen.  Oh how he loves me so!  Well I’ll let ya all know how it turns out for sure!

Steve brought me to see this home on our fourth date.  He wanted to know, “if things worked out between us could you see yourself living here?”  Talk about pressure!  I was visiting him in Indiana for the first time from the Chicago suburbs and certainly was not about to make a decision on the spot.  At least out loud, that is!  But I knew that the bush in the front-and-center of the bay window was a Miss Kim Lilac and just like the one I had lost with the townhome when my former spouse left me.  I also knew that the bush next to it was a burning bush that gets a magnificent, fiery shade of red in the Fall and just like the one I . . . well you can see where this is going.  It’s like when I viewed Steve’s profile on Yahoo Personals and saw a picture of him with a radio-controlled airplane that reminded me of the flying competitions in which my dad and brothers flew line-control planes when we were kids.  Of course I knew that the house was a great idea; I just wasn’t going to tell Steve anything just yet.  The home he purchased before we were married became a blank slate for me in remaking so many years that the locusts had eaten . . . . (Joel 2:25)

So I hope you can see how a simple thingy like some flower and vegetable gardens can be so meaningful to someone like me.  The draftsman in my Dad has become the designer in me.  His surprise generosity allowed me to create a living oasis that was an interest I shared with my mom when I became an adult.  Finding a loving place to realize these gifts would come in a way like never before when I found my intended beloved in the arms of my Stevers.  Solace, restoration, and hope were all set in motion regardless of my life’s circumstances according the plans of my Heavenly Dad, my Heavenly Husband; He knew all along the seeds He had planted in my heart long before I could ever dig in the dirt of life myself.  And just as life on this green earth began in the Garden of Eden, so do our own lives thrive in the planted spaces in which we are tilled and turned, watered, pruned, and nurtured until beauty bursts forth in scented color, in hope beyond that which we can see.

How can I be sad about the losses in my life when my Heavenly Dad has always been there with me?  From my garden bench I bid you a “Happy Father’s Day,” Gentle Reader.  I pray that you, too, will live in the fullness of life that grows more grand with each passing day:  a garden oasis in your soul where the One Who knows us so well can make everything meaningful, anything beautiful in the noon day sun or under the shade tree too.  JJ

Dad & me at his trailer