A Love for Gardening
Like many of you, Mother's Day triggers many fond memories of my childhood and the deeper friendship that evolved with my Mom over the years… once I got over my rebellious teen phase. I dearly miss my Mom, but also celebrate her spirit with the love I developed for gardening. My Mom nurtured this passion in ways that only recently I have come to realize.
We always had a garden wherever we lived, and every year my sisters and I got to each pick out a vegetable plant to care for until harvest time. My choice was always lettuce to feed my box turtle. One sister loved to plant radishes to later eat, which I could not understand at that time… probably since I was the youngest out of five. Yes, I love radishes today.
When my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and decided not to receive treatment, we endeavored to find out what would make her last days manageable. Gardening continued and brought a steady peace to the heart, with simple pleasures from digging in the dirt. It was also a time to connect with her, like never before.
So, these are some highlights to the memories that popped up this past Mother's Day.
One highlight was her continued desire to garden and get dirt under her fingernails. So, my Mom, sister and I thought it would be fun to each plant herb seeds at our homes, separated by several towns and another state. The pleasure came from sharing stories about the progress (or lack of progress, in some cases) with our plants!
Another highlight is my Mom telling me how she enjoyed the beautiful nature pictures, mostly with birds, that I always sent her. An ex-colleague of my husband is an excellent photographer and they keep in touch through the exchange of photos. Doug would send photos of all kinds of birds he took when out in nature, whether perched on a branch or taking flight from the wetlands. I would share these photos with my Mom through email and she would tell me that they always would brighten up her day.
A few years ago, my siblings and I planned a “Celebration of Life” for Mom. We met for brunch and then drove to our old neighborhood in the town of Lafayette for a walk down memory lane. We stopped at the home that we grew up in and loved so much, always a story to tell from those days. We moved away from this home many years ago.
The house had a big and beautiful backyard that blends into hills, with creeks and many oak trees to wander around in as our playground. The garden was, and still is, beautiful, and is home to many California native plants. I grew up watching my Mom tend to the plants as if they were all her precious children. I really think that is where I was able to learn to appreciate the beauty and creativity that gardening has to offer, a very positive foundation for my life.
So, we stopped up the street in the neighborhood and walked to our old house. To our surprise, the house looked so much like it did when growing up! While looking up at the house, the owner happened to be walking out from the garage and we introduced ourselves. We told her about growing up in this beautiful house and she invited us in for a peek, what fun!
Once inside, it was very surreal and childhood memories came flooding back. It was very overwhelming - but in a good way. The owners were very gracious and let us look everywhere, inside and out!
At the end of our visit, we were noticing beautiful framed photos of nature and wildlife, mostly of birds. My husband, Al, was going to ask about a stunning photo hanging over our old fireplace. Before he even had the chance to ask, the owner noticed us admiring the print and said that all of the photos were taken by her son. She said that her son, Doug, learned to appreciate nature and birds in the back yard and carries this same love with the photos he now takes. Doug?!? Yes, the same Doug, my husband's ex-colleague, the man that takes the photos that my Mom always enjoyed.
As I said, this experience was very surreal.
My love of gardening came from my Mom and started in my childhood home in Lafayette. And, my Mom was comforted during her last days, by photos from a nature photographer, who grew up in the same home and has a love for birds, inspired from wandering the same garden I had as a child, what my Mom had, many years ago.
My family met in Lafayette that day for a celebration of life for Mom and we discovered an unexpected gift, a highlight to her spirit.
I found an email on Mom's last comment about Doug's photos:
"This Anna's Hummingbird is so elegant! And the photos are so lifelike! What talent!
This is so interesting and his photography is fantastic!!!! What he did to get that wonderful Pacific Wren shot was really very special!!!
My Mom wrote a lot of poetry, and this is one of them:
until she discovers
plump snappy green bush beans hanging loose
hidden under broad leaves . . .
Syllabic: 3, 6, 9, 6, 3