“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.” – Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019)
Thirty-four years ago my husband and I were young, in love, and dreaming of our future home filled with a passel of energetic children, fresh-baked cookies, and opportunites as abundant as grandma’s zucchini patch. One of our treasured wedding gifts was this personalized cookie jar which held its place on our kitchen counter from home to home through military and civilian transfers. It served its purpose well with a continous flow of home baked fare throughout the years. Somehow, I don’t even remember the transition, our well-loved cookie jar made its way to the attic. With an empty nest and easily expandable waistlines, keeping cookies accessible on the counter top didn’t seem to be wisest of options.
This past winter I decided to tackle a purging of our long neglected attic, an amassment of Wise family history and sentimentality that seemed to have its deepest hold primarily on my sense of “someday someone may want this.” But my children are now creating their own neglected attics and it was time to start letting some things go. Uncovered in the corner of the attic was the loved cookie jar and I just couldn’t let it go. This wedding gift had been a part of so many great memories. Besides, who else would want a cookie jar that says Steve & Barbara Wise?!
But we still didn’t need cookies sitting on the counter so the horticulturist in me took over and saw that what I had before me was a cleverly disguised terrarium just waiting to be planted.
Using a thin layer of small stone to layer the bottom, topped with another thin layer of activated charcoal, I added a layer of container mix potting soil before planting an assortment of moisture loving small ferns and tropical plants.
I finished with a topdressing of moss and lichen collected from my sister-in-loves farmland.
This cookie-jar, a part of our family story, was a silent witness to welcoming my husband home from military tours, to welcoming new sons, to birthday parties, and holidays, and watching us all mature and change. It was a part of us growing. And in its redemption from being cast away in the attic it becomes a part of the growing, taking its place on my home office desk: I, in my new phase of life enjoying the revised named plant-jar in its new phase of life.
Thirty four years later we are no longer young and being in love has levels of truth far deeper than I imagined, but the dreams we shared unfolded, transfomed, and grew. Now when I sit at my desk I have a reminder that growing takes different forms and that redeeming something from the past is one of life’s sweetest actions.
“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”
– c.s. lewis
|And by redeeming the dirt, spring erupts into new life.
Sometimes the shadows are deceiving. At first glance, someone might think this was a photo of late afternoon.
When it was in fact midday. What is missing from the shadows on the gravel path? The oval windows. These shadows are from the roof of this covered pathway.
Today was the end of a long week and somehow an even longer day. As I was looking through pictures of the many gardens I’d visited over the last couple of years, I found a group of extra pictures from the visit I made (and showed pictures of yesterday) while at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I miss the simplicity and quietness of that trip, being in awe of the garden’s beauty, and long for the lessons that a garden gives me. What I find myself longing for is a time of reflection. To look clearly at what is before me and not be fooled by the shadows – those things that are not real, those incidences throughout the day where something appears to be be true, but is actually a shadow of something else entirely.
A time of reflection to see what I need to see about myself and others around me
and to see that beauty can be beyond the obvious.
A time of reflection to examine the path ahead of me. Its destination is uncertain… but I know I can take the next step.
I find it ironic that the occupation that gives me such enjoyment – working with nature – is also an occupation that involves interaction with human nature that can be so hurtful. The joy of relentless hours creating beautiful landscapes can be lost in the tyranny of logistics, time sheets, unrealistic budgets, and the constant desire for instant gratification.
So these photos reminded me that what I need is to reflect on what is true: I love to create beauty with plants, I love seeing how landscapes can become reflections of life as they grow and mature, I eagerly take on the challenge and mystery of how plants interact with the enviroment they are placed in, I embrace the goal of matching my client’s desires with what I know is horticulturally sound and visually welcoming for the area that I am planting in. And sometimes I just get it wrong.
To bridge the gap between beauty and budgets, between creativity and human nature’s tendency to stick with what is familiar sometimes seems a distant goal. To believe that with hard work, knowledge, and imagination I can make everyone happy is a shadow. To know that I have done my best reflects my love for what I do.
I think tomorrow I’m just going to work in my own garden.