Posts tagged ‘gardening’

The Blue Hydrangea

Two years ago today, we lost Mom.

It’s been a terribly long time. And just a blink.

I remember, on the day of funeral visitation, two of our neighbors made dinner for us. When we stopped home between the afternoon and evening sessions, there was a delicious meal waiting, the tables were set with linens and silverware, and each table held a vase of fresh-cut flowers. Our two-doors-up neighbor Diana had contributed the blooms from her own blue hydrangea bushes. I remember thinking that Mom would have loved the gorgeous simplicity of those bouquets.

After the funeral, as each bloom wilted, I felt sad and wistful, as you feel about small losses that follow a big one. Eventually, only one bloom remained. I checked on it each morning and would be so relieved to see that it had not yet wilted. That single bloom lifted my spirits. It outlasted July. It lasted through August. It lasted into September! It remained vibrant and flowering and had even sprouted new growth. The blue hydrangea on the window sill began to feel like something more than a flower. Diana and I both agreed, it was a message from Mom.

Yes. I know that conclusion is unlikely to be substantiated by any botanist. But, in times of impossible longing, we don’t really want science; we want magic.

I don’t know how long the magic might have lasted if I had just let it be, but, about midway through September, I had the brilliant idea that I should plant it. I did so, lovingly and carefully, and it looked great, for a bit. But then, one day, I looked close and discovered that the stem had become a stick.

I was so disappointed. I had failed, miserably. I had ruined something irreplaceable. And (I can chuckle about it now) I kept that dumb stick in a pot of dirt for a very long time.

Eventually, I decided I should buy one for myself, but you know how it goes. Regret dampens your enthusiasm. Times passes. You think of it, but there’s no time for the extra errand. You have no time to clear a spot in the garden. There are no blue hydrangeas in stock. There’s a global pandemic.

As of July 12, 2021, I still did not have any blue hydrangeas. Then, my phone dinged. I had a text message from Diana:  Stop up when you get a chance.

I walked to her house and there, in a plastic container in the corner of her driveway, was a plant. I said, “Is that a hydrangea!?” She nodded. She’d dug up one of her beautiful blue hydrangea bushes, dug it up, root ball and all. I gasped. We hugged. It was one of the nicest acts of kindness, one of the very best surprises I have ever had. We shared a lovely moment. Then, we were grunting and giggling as we loaded that gigantic planter into a wheel barrow.

Friends, I give you the Blue Hydrangea, life preserver, show-stopping shrub, symbol of friendship, message from Mom.  

July 20, 2021 at 2:37 pm Leave a comment

Work. Not Work.

Spring was late this year; the garden’s not going to have time to fill in properly, I told myself. The instructions to plant things 10 inches apart can’t possibly take into consideration this heavy, clay soil, I told myself.

She really just wanted to play in the dirt, you’re saying to yourself.


Last Sunday, I decided my place needed a few more flowers. And so, like an indulgent granny, I slipped myself a 20 and drove back to the local nursery for the third (maybe fourth?) time this year. Returned home and spent the entire day outside. Planting, weeding, fertilizing, moving this plant here and that plant there, wheeling around the wheel barrow, and generally just futzing around in a state of dippy bliss.

Smiles relax every worry line. I hum involuntarily. I stop and smell roses, literally. When I’m out there in the garden, it’s like someone turns on the auto focus. Or turns down the gravity. Or gives me a peek behind stage. And in that little glimpse of Real, I am as certain as Mary Poppins, as graceful as Ginger Rogers, as wise as Obi-Wan, as content as Baloo.

All is well.

I was finishing up with the watering as one of my neighbors was bringing his garbage to the opposite curb. “You’re working too hard,” he called out.

What went through my mind was, Work?! This isn’t work! Sitting at a desk is work. Editing a novel is work. An old dog learning the tricks of publishing is work. Drying dishes is work. Folding laundry is work. Raising cage-free dust bunnies is work. Grocery shopping is work. Driving in the South Hills of Pittsburgh is work. Scooping the litter box is work. But this? This is lovely. This is playtime.

This is filthy, sweaty, smelly, sunburnt, life-preserving awesome!

Ginger Rogers wanted to do a rousing number with lots of brass and some Busby Berkeley chorus girl flower arrangements. But I just smile-chuckle-nod-waved because that’s how you communicate in a brief, holler-across-the-street sort of way. And he was already heading back inside anyway.

And now, I’m back in the midst of the work week. As I look over my to-do list here at my desk, which faces the window, which overlooks the front garden, I . . . uh . . . you know? I think I see some weeds. Maybe I should get out there and check on that.

June 11, 2015 at 3:01 pm 2 comments

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