Thursday, January 24, 2013

Greater Than One

I do not know when it began. Perhaps it has always been so. I bend to dig the earth, gloves loose on my small, square hands and imagine them passing. I do not look up for there is nothing to see. I thrust the trowel deep, the staccato jabbing of my arms matched only by the movement of my breath. I close my eyes and force myself to stop.

It is easy to conjure my father from twig and dust, harder so my mother. Conversations never held whisper through my mind, a restless wind both soothing and savage. I glance right and want to see his shoes, scuffed sneakers below jeans and a t-shirt. "Looks good, kid" but the words don't come. The air hangs empty, no tender sentiments to slip into the small places in my heart so I say them myself. But they rattle and thump and I close my ears to their hollow applause.

Grief grows cold over time while memories take root. They flourish and thrive, branches in full leaf, flowers rich with scent only you can smell. Dormant climbing rose canes stand erect before me and I pause before I cut. Closing my eyes, I reach for his voice, confident and measured. "Which one are you going to cut first?" he asks. I grab the tangled branch carefully as I explain my plan. I imagine us working in tandem as I fumble with the string and pruners. His thick fingers pin the canes to the wooden fence as I work quickly to avoid the thorns.

I stand back to view my work. The canes rest horizontally to the wooden slats, the strings too long and poorly tied. Smashed plants, winter grey against the cold soil, lie stiff under fallen thread. I am tired of missing them. Death comes often to my small, fractured family and my garden reminds me of more than it should. Heavy with memory, my shoulders slump and I slide onto the damp earth, grey Virginia sky erased by the dry blue of a California summer. Roses thrive in the tiny garden as ignored zucchini grow to foolish lengths. She bustles by, short and plump and always humming. I bend to touch her and can feel my shoulders relax in her soft embrace. "How'd you get so tall?" she teases. "Such a Swede."

I count the months till my roses bloom and breathe deep the musk of grass and rain. Solace swells and blooms, comfort found in petal and leaf.


David Austin's Jude the Obscure and William Shakespeare 2000 roses from my garden.

77 comments:

  1. I sat in the ER with my ancient step-father last night. His wife my mother has been dead for three years. Whenever I think of her she is laughing and it kind of reminds me that we can relax.

    Lovely post.

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    1. My father died young (55) but there was something so peaceful about his death. I think he was ready and I've felt his presence in every garden I've had since he died. It's been very healing. It's where I go to be with him. I hope your step-dad is ok.

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  2. I also wanted to say that it is wonderful that you are helping so many lovely dogs.

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    1. I wish I could have more and for several years had five dogs. After spending all day with 12 yr olds, coming home to a pack of dogs is a cake walk! :o)

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  3. Beautiful post... gardening is so therapeutic for mind and soul, while we may sometimes not want to be "thinking", it will always have a healing quality when it brings to mind beautiful memories! Cheers~

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    1. Its always kind of amazing to me where my thoughts go when I'm in the garden. They wander and hop about and I find myself sorting through all kinds of things that I put on mental hold until I can get out to the garden. Then the dam walls come down and I'm flooded with thought, memory, etc. It's like going on a mental walk and even if I don't end up somewhere lovely, I'm always glad I went.

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  4. Tammy, thank you for writing such a beautiful heartfelt post. When my mother passed away twelve years ago, I felt a real need to garden. It has always been good therapy for me, too!

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    1. Gardening is much more theraputic than many other traditional remedies. Just the simple act of digging can be tremendously cathartic.

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  5. You paint gorgeous word pictures Tammy! Thanks for another incredible post.

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  6. Oh Tammy, how wonderful to have those memories.

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    1. What's interesting is that every time I picture my dad, he's always wearing the same thing and is always walking around my garden. It's really comforting. :o)

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  7. I enjoyed reading this beautiful post. All good and sometimes bad memories come and go, I think nothing is so therapeutic than digging in the soil and afterwards we feel physically lovely tired but mentally stronger than ever.

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    1. Your words perfectly sum up how I feel!

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  8. Like you, the garden brings both my parents back to me, but especially my father. He was a city boy who grew up in a tenement, but he loved having a garden at his suburban home as an adult.

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    1. Going from a tenement to a suburban garden must have felt like living in Eden. It's wonderful how our gardens always end up being more than just gardens.

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  9. Such a beautiful post. There is a calmness that comes from the garden that gives us that time to work through emotions that I find no where else. Thank you for sharing and your picture is absolutely stunning!

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    1. I got really lucky with that shot since I'm a fairly rotten photographer. You're right about gardens being calming. I always feel more centered and balanced after I'm done.

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  10. Gardening can bring healing and be therapy for so many different reasons. Thank you for sharing yours with us Tammy. I can truly say that gardening keeps me sane, I would be lost without my garden :-)

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    1. Me, too! If it weren't for gardening, I'd probably be in a straight jacket somewhere.

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  11. Beautiful post and reflections. It's amazing what a garden makes us think about while we're busy prepping it, tidying up......but your words I think are perfect and poetic. Beautiful images.

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    1. Thanks! I'm convinced gardening is as close to teleportation as I'll ever get. I may be physically in the garden, but mentally I'm always elsewhere. :o)

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  12. Thank you for this lovely written and sentimental post. When I'm in the garden is when I'm meditating or lost in my own thoughts....like thinking of my loved ones who are no longer here.
    I think of my mum more while I'm gardening, since she was the gardener.
    Like you I hold conversations in my mind too with my family members who have passed....at least I know now that I am not alone....memories don't leave like people do.....

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    1. Perfect - memories don't leave like people do. Absolutely true!

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  13. I am sorry you are feeling sad, and hope spring flowers will lift your spirits. I felt bad all last year and don't even remember my garden last spring. I intend not to miss it this time :)

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    1. I hope you're feeling better! I'm not always a ray of sunshine, either. Every day that passes is one day closer to spring. :o)

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  14. What a beautiful way to share such memories! I need to talk more to my garden, Maybe I will be able to be as colorful in my thoughts, to share.. to somehow never feel lonely or sad! Golden!

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    1. I don't actually talk to my plants much, although maybe I should. But there's something about being in the garden that just frees my brain to sort through issues and help me find solutions for them. :o)

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  15. So sweet, Tammy. You paint beautiful imagery with your well chosen words.

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  16. You have expressed your angst in a most eloquent way. Gardening is good for the soul and a great way to connect with nature. You have channeled your energy positively as showcased by your lovely garden.

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    1. Gardening is good for the soul. So is digging lots of holes when you're grieving too much to do anything else.

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    1. Thanks. It's been 15 years since my dad died and 10 since my mom died but I don't think you ever stop missing someone you truly loved.

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  18. This is such a wonderful tribute to your parents, Tammy. I'm sure they're both proud of you. You're words are powerful. Very touching.

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  19. Very nice post and Spring will be here before we know it, although with the snow right now I sometimes wonder if it's going to get here as soon as I want it.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. We've had a touch of snow but I noticed daffodils and columbine coming up this morning, which made my heart race a bit. :o)

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  20. Your words and sentiments are as beautiful as your flowers, Tammy, and have the added grace that they will last even longer. Lovely post.

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  21. Whether sweet or painful, childhood memories of parents help make us who we are, in gardening and life. Yours are vivid and poetic, and much more.

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    1. Thanks, Lee. I heard once that there's only one road to now and that if we were to change our road it would change who were are right now. Wise words that help me accept all the good and bad life has to offer.

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  22. There is more then soil turned in your post, how very vivid...you have brought us out into your garden to witness more then a memory....we were there with you.

    I can feel the ache, and I wish I could offer you solace.

    Jen

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    1. Solace comes with happy memories. :o) Thank you for such kind words.

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  23. Our roots run deep. Thanks for this beautiful post, such a wonderful tribute to your parents.

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  24. What a beautifully written and evocative post. Funny how gardening sets the mind free to wander through memories. I am lucky enough to still have both my parents, but my grandparents are never far from my thoughts when I am plannign the veg garden or contemplating raspberries. I hope your memories bring you peace and lessen the missing of them.

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    1. You're right about gardening setting the mind to wander. As soon as I head towards the garden, mine goes on a walkabout. It always arrives at thoughts that needed reconciling or just memories of people/places I miss.

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  25. While our roses sleep, we imagine them growing strength. You narrative is so beautifully written, a lovely tribute to both your family and your garden. Are you suffering from the really cold temps? The best thing about brown in the yard, it easily turns green in the spring.

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    1. It's been cold here but I really like it. All the brown does green up quickly. My roses are powerful reminders of my parents, who grew them in our tiny CA garden. The juxtaposition of seeing my plain, burly father bent over a beautiful rose was never lost on me. :o)

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  26. A sad but lovely post. My father loved his roses and has passed this on to me - soon the gardens will be springing back into life and we can look forward to their flowering once again.

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    1. I always feel that my first rose blooms are shared by my parents spirits as well as mine. It makes the occasion even more special. :o)

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  27. A beautiful post.
    (I need to spend more time in the garden than I have in recent years.)

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    1. Thank you. :o) Our gardens are forgiving of time spent away. The endure without us but thrive with us.

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  28. Beautiful writing and a lovely photo. I'm thinking of adding roses to my garden this spring if I can deal with the deer. You've inspired me.

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    1. Thank you! I've heard of deer sightings in my neighborhood but have never had them in my yard, thankfully. 'Graham Thomas' by David Austin is a very easy yellow climber that you might enjoy. :o)

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  29. Your post made me cry. I have only vague memories of gardening with my father, who died when I was 6, but I credit these with my life-long interest in gardening as no one else in my family has the slightest interest. I sought solace there, too, when my stepfather passed away in 2011. It's a good place to find peace and renewal.

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    1. Our gardens are full of peace and renewal - well put. My dad bought me my first gardening book. After he died I always felt him in my gardens more than my house. It was comforting and very healing.

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  30. Lovely post Tammy. You describe beautifully that ease we get in our gardens, letting our minds wander. Sometimes for me it's remembering and other times it's working through the problems of the day. Either way the garden is a place to let go.

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    1. I agree completely. Sometimes its the work and reflections from the gardening that help me let things go.

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  31. A wonderful tribute, Tammy. You make mom and dad proud.

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  32. Sometimes it seems there is no end to grief and it creates such a big hollow space. At least the healing qualities of a garden and good memories help fill that hollow space.

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    1. Grief can be sneaky. Just when you think your 100% past something, it pops up behind you to slap you in the ass. I'd appreciate advance notice. :o)

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  33. A lovely tribute. - http://mary-goingnative.blogspot.com/

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    1. Awww, thanks! I wrote a chapter once and that was it. :o) The idea of creating a plot and characters and then carrying them through an entire novel seems daunting! Maybe I should should write books designed to be read during TV commercials and boring meetings.

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  35. Gardening is so cathartic -- spring brings new growth and hope, renewal. Nice post and lovely blooms Tammy.

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    1. I agree completely! As for the water celery from my other post - I totally forgot it would take over! Oy! It roots where ever it touches, which surprised me. I'm going to be much more vigilant this summer. :o)

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  36. Oh Darn! I have been missing my mother the whole morning and then I read this :-(....I can feel your pain. We feel more pain nowadays because we lead such fractured, lonely life - gone are the days when families and friend were close by, communities were closer, neighbors knew each other and large family sat down together, sometimes even with stranger, for meals. And, you are right - gardening or just enjoying time in nature - brings much comfort.

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  37. This post is so poetic, and moving. I think the garden is such a wonderful place to remember our loved ones. I had to read your line "Grief grows cold over time while memories take root" several times. I am in the transitioning phase, and I stopped to look back, and then to look forward to the way my grief has/will change over time.

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  38. Lovely and poetic, Tammy. "Grief grows cold over time while memories take root. They flourish and thrive, branches in full leaf, flowers rich with scent only you can smell." Love those sentences!!

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