Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Changes: To Move or Not to Move
That brilliant future memory spawned others from the past for me.
I remember my grandmother's hands fussing over the many pots of green "things" she kept in her dining room window on Baker Road in Everett, Massachusetts. It isn't her face I remember in this memory, but her hands. In other moments, it's her back as she bends down to pull a weed. She had a watering can with a thin long spout and would occasionally let me water the ferns and ivies that crowded the top of her dining room buffet. Later, I learned she had painted that water can herself, decorating it with a shaded rose, as she had done with many other things in her light-filled apartment. Her knowledge of color and shape grew from studying the gardens she kept and generated into the artistic touch she had when decorating her home. I often wonder, now that I have her sketches in my possession, whether she dreamt of being something other than a housekeeper and gardener.
Outside that dining room window, a thin swatch of garden grew along the driveway into the paved back yard. That swatch overflowed with daylilies, irises, daisies, foxgloves -- all the old cottage flowers that make a happy panoply of color against any house. The birds loved Nana's city gardens and populated the birdhouse she hung right outside the kitchen window. I sat there with my grandfather, eating graham crackers and milk, while he identified the birds who visited the window: "Those are cardinals. See how the female is a duller shade of red than the male? Look at him puffing his chest. And those little brown ones. See there? They're sparrows. The blue one making all the noise? Jays. I can't stand jays. That little one--see that one with the black face? That's a finch." We could watch them flutter inches away from our cereal bowls, and I found myself fascinated by the hummingbirds that occasionally found their way to the watering spout. They were rare and mystical, their purple wings glittering as they fluttered so quickly, they became a blur of shine. Those days defined summer for me and were the genesis of my life as a gardener.
Now, I know that the gardens don't sprout that way magically, as I once thought they did, but that they take a lot of work and planning. Designing that space is as much a work of art as creating a canvas. Choosing the colors, shapes, and textures determine the final product. And even then, the product might have to change -- and that change is not something the gardener often has a choice in making. Yet that change is necessary for the life of the garden. That, in itself, taught me volumes about the changes you make as a human being in order to adjust to what life thrusts in our way.
This brings me to the changes I must think about for my garden. The roses are not doing well, and I know it's because the garden has grown so much that they're having a tough time breathing. I must move them, but that project is a large one and needs major planning. I'm considering cutting another garden that will give an entrance to the side yard in the back of my house. I could put in another archway and frame it with the LadyBanks Roses on one side and the red rambler I have on the other. I could move the shrub roses to each side of that archway so they would be in the sun and have breathing room. The rose garden would give us some privacy in the backyard and take advantage of the fact that I haven't been able to successfully grow grass back there anyway. Maybe I could just mulch the whole back area up to the shady natural space and use it for the roses, give up on the grass . . .
To move or not to move. The poem I've chosen for today reflects the difficulties of gardening decisions, and the ever-changing color map of the garden and of life itself.
this is the garden: colours come and go
by ee cummings
this is the garden: colours come and go,
frail azures fluttering from night's outer wing
strong silent greens serenely lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden: pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms,and sing
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.
This is the garden. Time shall surely reap