Friday, February 8, 2013

Words for Gram

Gram's birthday was on February 4. I kept waiting for the inspiration for a birthday tribute post to hit me. I started and stopped, typed and deleted. Nothing felt right. Nothing felt "enough" for this lovely lady who played such a key role in my life. Sometimes it's difficult to find words worthy of someone so special. They all seem so very inadequate, especially if you weren't lucky enough to have actually known her, able to know what I fail to convey.

Recently, I read these words on The Pioneer Woman's blog as she shared her grief over losing her beloved grandmother. Words, strikingly beautiful and filled with raw emotion, with which I identified.

The tears I’ve cried have been a combination of grief over losing her and gratitude for having been her granddaughter.

Most of the time, I can’t distinguish between the two.

(The Pioneer Woman, "Things I've Learned")

I think I was trying too hard.

It's no secret that I don't have my grandparents' natural ability with plants. I've had to give up on more sad, unsalvageable former green things than I wish to count. Not Gram. She could coax life from a dry stick. Her gardens overflowed with vibrant blooms, from the first brave bluebells and snowdrops that poked through the lingering snow crust in the shady spots to autumn's final triumph of  warm-hued mums as they echoed the fiery leaves above, on the trees, and scattered in crunchy drifts on the ground. I am sure the butterflies and honeybees and hummingbirds felt her flowerbeds were a slice of Heaven.

Since we bought the house, I've kept telling myself that I wanted to learn. What to plant where and how to keep them from turning into shriveled brown piles of plant death. It took me nine months (and a husband who matter-of-factly stated we were going to get some plants) to find the nerve to start. It doesn't seem like it should be such a big deal, but my soft heart feels guilty for killing defenseless vegetation. But you can't learn if you don't start, and I resigned myself to more failures.

A full three months after gracing the edges of the landscaping around our house, all six plants, mums in a variety of colors, are still doing this:

My shock is palpable. I stare at them openly at least three times a week. (I'm sure my neighbors think I am crazy, but my flowerbeds look better than theirs, so I'm ok with their judgment.)

I have watched them grow. I have deadheaded them from spent blooms to make room for new growth. I have observed in utter amazement how new buds appear and then blossom, again and again. I water and tend. I trim and fertilize. I am learning. I actually felt confident enough to add more.

I am even proud to report that these same herbs

are STILL ALIVE. Since July. The parsley just keeps sending out new shoots and the basil needs to be scrapped and started fresh, not because I've driven the life from its stems, but because basil stems simply get tough and woody over time, especially in a climate that doesn't freeze, and it stops being as productive. (It's also kind of outgrowing its home anyway.) But the fact remains that a plant has actually grown too much and for too long in my care.

I won't make any claims about knowing what I'm doing. It's all a giant experiment. But I can say for certain that I'm learning. And as I move, ever more comfortably, among my plants, I feel my Gram there. I feel closer to her there, yet feel her absence more poignantly, than any other place. Perhaps, in addition to carrying her in my memories, she continues to be present, tending my gardens through me, their quiet guardian angel.

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