I should be use to it by now. After living back on this farm for the last dozen years, it shouldn’t surprise me when at each turn of season something beautiful blooms here. And yet, it still delights me when I look out the north window and see the surprise lilies standing tall and proud on their spindly stems or the snowball blooms as big as softballs on the hydrangeas along the east side of the shed.
Most of the blooms here were planted and lovingly tended by my mother. Mom not only had a green thumb, but all her other digits knew how to plant and grow beautiful things as well. I run a plant hospice so it’s obvious nurturing and tending plants is not always an inherited gene.
But my mother found great joy working in and always expanding her flowerbeds and garden. She loved beauty and creating more of it, and she knew the names of every tree, flower and weed. As a kid, whenever we’d go on drives, Mom would happily share this knowledge, pointing out and naming every piece of flora that blurred by my back window. I rarely listened, and found her constant attempts to teach me about the natural world annoying. As I said, I was a kid. Now I’m an adult, my mother is gone and I realize what I missed by not paying attention. But isn’t that one of our grand lessons in living? Pay attention. NOW!
And I am now paying attention and I deeply appreciate all that my mother has left behind. There are the purple, white and – Mom’s favorite – yellow irises along the east woods and bunched along the road. There are peonies by the back steps and in the flowerbed on the hill. Their large pink and white blooms were always picked for bouquets to put on family graves at Memorial Day.
There are tulips and lilies and – well, this is one of those times I wish I had paid more attention to my mother so I could call each plant by its proper name. But they are all beautiful and always remind me of her. Sometimes I feel as though I catch a glimpse of her bent over one of her flowerbeds, cursing me for not doing better at tending the beauty she left behind, and no doubt grumbling a little as she pulls the weeds I refuse to.
I believe my mother also shows up to water the houseplants she left behind. Two of her African violets continue to bloom and, so far, I’ve kept alive a fern and a few other plants for which I, of course, don’t know the names. It is a miracle any of them are still living since I often don’t notice they could use a good watering until I see them laying over the sides of their pots enviously eyeing the cat’s water bowls.
Reminders and remnants of my mother are everywhere here. My father is still here too. They built this house, created this farm and left behind unlimited love in their labor. And in many ways they remain vibrantly alive here through what they left behind, from their workmanship to the passions they enjoyed in rare moments of not working.
But even if my face leaks a little at remembering sweet memories of times gone by, clumps of beautiful and colorful flowers scattered around the grounds delight and cheer me. They also make me wonder what I have planted that others may notice and remember my having passed through.
Since I’ve already established my gardening and growing ineptitude it won’t likely be in the form of vegetation. But maybe there are other forms of blooms and beauty that I can leave behind. Maybe the seeds of hope and humor, enthusiasm and encouragement, love and laughter will grow into something bigger, more beautiful and enduring.
Living on this farm that raised me, has made me aware that every season offers memories that emerge and bloom connecting the past, present and future. Some days it can feel like dancing with ghosts. But who knew that when you dance with ghosts you can laugh and cry at the same time.