The gardener digs in another time, without past or future, beginning or end…Here is the Amen beyond the prayer. Derek Jarman
“I like the way the air is moving,” said Pepper. Along for the ride with sister Elodie who advanced the front porch swing with a foot-push, she peered over the top of her multi-colored frames with an old-soul emphasis. A breeze cured by April fronts ruffled the leaves; it was cool enough to calm our bodies still bogged down from too much captivity.
Their mother had packed their rubber boots, a former necessity of life in Chicago, and now our muddy yard. She was certain there would be a “Spring Walk” on the overnight schedule. Springtime saunters with her father D linger in memory ranking next to post dinner rides for mint chocolate chip cones all around.
The unintentional launch of this particular tradition began at the beginning of things when I would tumble out of bed on the first warm weekend to an empty house. Looking out the window, I would spot the two of them presiding over light lush greenery. D marking the lawn with long-legged strides, first with Mary Ann in a bundle, then balanced with an arm and later trailing beside him as she would say, “with my dress on.”
“Daffodils, dogwoods, redbuds, vincas, cannas and…… azaleas.” In time they would hover to point out the budding varieties.
I invited myself to the party this year highlighting the front edge of the concrete porch where we swing in the moving air, a space just before the day lilies begin their own riotous glory. “See here,” I carry on – “These four o’clock buds are from the seeds that I planted years ago – collected on site at Monticello during Spring Break!”
The four o’clocks come and go each year with a heartwarming predictably. Leggy and bright-eyed, some find the esthetic too erratic, but I love their routine a zany reminder of life’s eclectic makeup. They testify together opening their flower faces at the appointed hour (5:00 p.m. at our house).
In tandem we drag our toes in the new mown clumps of grass and talk a bit about the profusion of wild violets everywhere, the bridal veil’s tiny bouquets, the too-big pile of enriched soil that awaits the shovel and then they are off to investigate a garage filled with toddler riding toys covered in the dust and dead leaves of yester-visits.
It’s then that I turn to the potted plants that wintered in the basement. Smiling to hollers and laughter in the background, I see that she didn’t make it. The freakish miracle of my other mother – a potted pink azalea. Each spring for the past 30 years, I would hold my breath for her green tipped, bud laden debut from the basement. Her humble beginning never suggested that she could stick it out with me for decades.
She was a gift upon my Mother’s death from a dedicated friend ever since five years of age Enny (Enid) Louise Bridgforth. Enny Louise was an early member of the Dead Mother’s Club. Her basket arrived with a small but brilliantly pink azalea embedded among a variety of herbs.
Love abounds. Eventually I repotted Pink and added soil from time to time. Each year we would gasp at the degree the root bound plant could burst with life to herald the spring.
I have known those who experienced significant appearances of butterflies and birds after the death of a loved one. They are natural symbols of transformation and even rebirth, but a blossoming potted pink totem?
Still she persisted as if I my Mother was present to cheer me on or give solace year after year. The 2021 Spring Walk yielded a sobering grief in which D joined me as he so eloquently does in time of loss.
Time to go. The Weprin children picked yard souvenirs as we ventured inside.
The next day, a young neighbor crossed the yard to lament the exit of her grown-up children. “Do you ever get use to the loss?” she said. I thought about the decades long survival of Potted Pink for my pleasure and her safe keeping until she finally drifted away about the time that I stood solid in my own sense of legacy.
“Circle of life,” I recited to the fellow seeker. I considered the escort of Potted Pink to her final resting place in glorious mulch pile regeneration. Some things have to be believed to be seen.