Silver Moon, blooming just beyond the dining room window - and yes, it rained this evening, much wished for, and much enjoyed...rain.
(Other views, less glamorous ones, of this rose can be found here. Fear this rose.)
Amazingly enough, I met with my architherapist today - and even though I haven't been thinking about my new home, gratefully my architherapist has been, and there are plans - pages of them, with first and second floor views, south-north-east-west views, roof views - structural drawings - and after talking about things for a bit, I looked at him and said 'Wow, does this mean we might actually build this thing?' to which he said...not much, because he knew that I was being silly, perhaps even a bit surprised that life just...moves forward...amidst the chaos and sadness. Yes, there will be a house. A new home. I will move into the Airstream - where I will adapt to using a laundry mat and living in a small space - and yes, all of this will happen.
Last evening I enjoyed a walk through a lovely swamp at Beidler Forest - an evening of 'wine and warblers' with a friend. It felt good to be outside, to be surrounded by so much fresh green - and it didn't hurt that the prothonotary warblers (Protonotaria citrea) were being friendly.
I like swamps. While wandering through them, it's hard not to think about a little wooden house built up on stilts, with a little front porch with a few chairs on it - where one could sit and watch all of those things that a swamp and it's inhabitants enjoy doing. You know, those things. While watching, you might want to listen to a little music from time-to-time, perhaps even some Sean Hayes, perhaps a song that goes like this:
Walk with me a while Talk with me a while Sit with me a while Sip tea a while Come with me a while Just be a while All that I have is time All that you have is time
Okay, so perhaps a little color is needed after all...right? It couldn't hurt.
I spent quite a bit of time yesterday standing in my garden. Now, one might think that simply standing isn't all that productive - but I felt that it was a good start, and on ocassion I bent down and pulled a weed (or two thousand) and I even transplanted a few things. I watered. I stood with a hose and watered. There is something wonderfully therapeutic about watering. The garden is already dry - I don't like dry springtimes (who does?) and I fear that we are continuing last year's drought. There is a chance of storms tomorrow - I hope they reach us.
Yesterday I did manage to make it to the Charleston Horticultural Society's plant sale - and it was packed with people by 9 am (and here I was, proud of myself for being somewhere so early on a Saturday morning). Here is a list of the fine loot (this suggests that I didn't pay, which I did - I just like the word 'loot' and rarely seem to use it) I left with:
I feel like I've been away from my garden for a long time - for at least the past year, and it now seems like a neglected space to me. Happily though it is warm here now - the sun is hot, and although we are already complaining about this unusual dryness that has been with us for over a year now - the garden seems to still want to grow. Color is here and there, the potential for color is everywhere - although this morning I wasn't in the mood for this ganzania's bright colors - yes, grayscale suits me just fine (this daisy's patterns are lovely enough, all on their own anyway). And I think that I'll drag myself this morning down to the Charleston Horticultural Society annual plant sale (I've never gone before) - Plantasia - because one never knows what one might so desperately need.
I've written about South Carolina native (and Poet) Terrance Hayes before in these pages, and Katherine alerted us last week that he was being interviewed at the end of the News Hour on PBS. You can listen to his interview here.
The lab has been so good to me this week - it seems that they all decided that each of them would provide me with food for a day - and there has been potato soup and tomato soup and quiche and baked apples and more - I may be blue, but I've definitely been well-fed. I've learned perhaps that the most difficult part of integrating back into day-to-day life is that everyone wants to say how they are sorry about your loss, and while that is better than silence, it is a bit overwhelming - and one almost wishes that there was a three-person minimum per day. Gratefully, poetry continues in the lab, and this week Katherine presented us a wonderful translation of a poem for all of you up north who have been so anxious for the end of winter.
From: Three Poems from the Wishing Bone Cycle: Narrative Poems from the Swampy Cree Indians (found here, sort of - as for the other two poems, you can find them here) translated by Howard A. Norman (Santa Barbara: Ross-Erickson, 1982)
Quiet Until The Thaw
Her name tells of how it was with her.
The truth is, she did not speak in winter. Everybody learned not to ask her questions in winter, once this was known about her.
The first winter this happened we looked in her mouth to see if something was frozen. Her tongue maybe, or something else in there.
But after the thaw she spoke again and told us it was fine for her that way.
So each spring we looked forward to that.
Perhaps my family has been frozen for the past year, and it is now time for us to thaw? I think that this is something 'easier said than done'...
A few months after my Mother's lung cancer diagnosis last spring, my parents bought a pink dogwood tree and planted it in their backyard.
(If I were a scientist studying genetic links to optimism, I would definitely take a close look at my Father's side of the family.)
A year later, this spring, the small dogwood had four flowers - all in bloom on Tuesday, April 15th - the day that my Mother died.
I arrived at my parent's home 35 minutes before my Mother passed away at 11:05 am, after driving most of the night on I-95 -- with my Mother's sister and my Father calling me frequently, updating me on the shallowness of her breathing - and holding the phone up to my Mother's ear and letting me talk to her, not knowing whether or not that she could hear me. I hope that she did. I think that she did. I could hear the concern in their last call: I was in front of Albemarle High School, less than 20 minutes from home. I told my Father that I was almost there. I could hear the relief in his voice.
After I arrived, I (politely) kicked everyone out of the room and spoke with my Mother for 20 minutes or so. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow and slow. After I told everyone to come back into the room - she passed away fifteen minutes later. Her decline was described as 'rapid'.
I will miss her forever.
Everyone says that when you lose a parent, that you enter a secret society - and somewhat foolishly, I mentioned this before. What I learned this week is that there are no T-shirts or theme songs - but instead there are experiences that change how you view the world - and you find yourself doing things that you never thought you had the strength to do: cleaning up your Mother before the funeral home folks arrive, editing her obituary, ridding the home of all things 'cancer', selecting her clothes, watching the casket being lowered into the vault (and then the vault being lowered down into the ground), helping your Father by packing up your Mother's clothes and storing them safely in the house (but out of sight), visiting her grave three days later in the rain, and then saying goodbye to your father and heading south - leaving him alone for the first time in over 54 years. Now I sit in my home in Charleston, with thank you notes to write for the family, yet I haven't the heart to write them yet.
We are all okay though. In time, we will be better than okay.
My brother is once again practicing dentistry, I spent a few hours with the lab today (and more hours in my own garden), my niece is once again in classes and working, and my Father went grocery shopping yesterday and to his gym today - and tonight when I spoke to him, he was getting ready to buy 'wrinkle-resistant' shirts because, not surprisingly, my Mother always ironed his clothes for him.
So for my belated May Dreams GardensGarden Blogger's Bloom Day post, I'd like to present the flowers that surrounded me last week - the flowers blooming in my Mother's beautiful Virginia garden, and the flowers sent to us by friends and family - flowers that my family were comforted by during a difficult week. My brother and I are committed to the care of my Mother's garden - and when a former neighbor from here in Charleston came to visit my parent's home a few days after the funeral, she looked around my parent's garden, laughed, and said 'Boy, the nut doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?'
My Mother lives on in my garden - and in all of the gardens where she shared plants throughout her 74 years. I don't think I could count how many gardens that is. It comforts me tonight to know that she is blooming all over the place.
My brother said a few days ago that it feels like we are ghosts - and that we are wandering an alternate universe. Yesterday we found ourselves sitting in wicker chairs, on display in the Harris Teeter grocery store in my parent's hometown - the store that we went to over the past year in search of food that our Mother might eat. We sat there for almost an hour, reflecting on the past year. No one seemed to notice us sitting there.
We are tired and sad.
But it's time to start thinking about our own lives once again.
'Hours to days' is what the Hospice nurse has said. 'She is in rapid decline.'
She is off all medications except for Lorazepam and Morphine. Her sister, her favorite sister, and her husband are there - staying with my father tonight. My Aunt put the phone up to my Mother, and I could hear her moan with each breath. She is on oxygen.
I wanted to leave right away, but my Father doesn't want to also be worrying about me driving through the night on I-95. Instead, I will leave very early in the morning.
I am so proud of my Father.
And I'm proud of how my Mother managed to live her last year, even under the cloud of such a horrible disease. During her last year in her garden - she often said that she thought it was at it's most beautiful. And it was.
During my last visit - when my brother and I were both preparing to leave in the early morning - she got up and packed us snacks for the road. Our Mother to the end.
How does one wander around in the world, after their Mother has gone? I see people doing it all of the time - so I suppose it is something that I will learn to do too. Perhaps there are secrets I will learn, perhaps there is a secret society one enters - with oaths, and t-shirts, and theme songs.
Bud of Abraham Darby, a 1985 David Austin rose ('Yellow Cushion' X 'Aloha').
The roses are really starting to take off, and today I noticed that my white-flowering Lady Bank's rose has climbed a good 20' into an ash tree on the other side of the front fence - and there were flowers scattered all through the branches of the ash tree. Unfortunately, sometimes I tend to like these chaotic ramblings - but I did make a note to myself that perhaps it is something that I should deal with. Perhaps.
For the past two mornings, when I've walked outside with the Dan and the Stan, warm salt air has greeted me, a fragrance that instantly tells me the direction of the wind and reminds me, quietly, that I live near the ocean. It is the fragrance that would excite me as a child, when my family would take long vacations on the Delaware Shore - on that first morning when I'd wake up and run out to the screened-in porch and breath in that salty air.
This weekend I've enjoyed the comforts of the salt air, as I've struggled a bit with what to do with myself. Friday evening I had an enjoyable dinner out with two friends - good conversation, a few tears, alot of laughter. The wine didn't hurt either.
Saturday was more difficult. A Hospice nurse was showing up at my parent's home at 11:45 pm, and while that was going on, I found myself unable to settled into anything - so I got in my car and headed out to a favorite place, on Johns Island, and sat with my 87-yr old camellia-crazed friend (yes, the one with the pruning shears) and we talked about how camellias first came to this country via Massachussetts, how when he was a child living on Johns Island (on the same land that he lives on today) - that a neighbor down the creek from him had large kumquat and lemon trees, so large that they used to climb them, until a very deep and unusual freeze destroyed the trees. We talked about cancer - and I told him about my Mother and he talked about his wife, whom he lost four years ago to melanoma. We both decided that we didn't like the disease, that we didn't understand it - and he talked about his earlier days, working on the Charleston Navy Base in an asbesto and smoke-filled room for days, weeks, and months on end.
When I got ready to leave, he said that he needed to give me some camellias, because he didn't know how many days left that he had, and that he needed to be sure that I had enough camellias. I just said thank you, mainly because I couldn't argue his point - and at 87 years of age that's a pretty reasonable thing to say, I'd guess. I was thrilled that he had a small 1-gal High Fragrance potted up for me - it's a camellia that he had shown me in February, and I had fallen for it's wonderful fragrance. Since I'd been rambling on about what to put in a camellia 'walk' in my back corner garden, he also gave me two small (6") japonicas of unknown parentage (he had transplanted them from his camellia garden containing over 600 varieties, where crazy camellia flirtations and more were going on all of the time) which he said could be a boring red one with small flowers or a stunning beauty that might win all of the camellia awards in years to come. He also gave me two 6" sasanquas - most likely 'Maiden's Blush' - which I don't have in my garden and am thrilled to include.
I've talked about Skip's camellias before on these pages - but in case you've missed them, please do take a look (here and here). He loves his camellia garden about as much as anything in this world - and he is a fascinating example of how one man's obsession can contribute to a Genus - quietly, persistently, fully. I want to do the same thing, but I'd better decide soon the one Genus that I want to become obsessed with - and then get on with it. It is time.
Today I've been more unsettled - I've planted Skip's camellias and sasanquas, packed a few boxes, cleaned the house up a bit, I've spoken with friends on the phone - and it's obvious that my emotions are close to the surface, perhaps even spilling over - and I'm grateful for their patience with me. I spoke with my Mother on the phone, asking her if she would drink something, perhaps eat some fruit. She says that she is not in pain, but just feels badly all over. I sense that she is scared, like she doesn't know what is going on in this body that she has always enjoyed and cared for. I need to get home, and think now that I will try to leave on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. I just want to be there with her, to see if I can be of any help. Having your Mother not want to eat is beyond heartbreaking - but I need to be heartbroken with her, instead of heartbroken here in South Carolina. I need to be in Virginia.