Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wandering Eye

I’ve been looking at houses online. It feels transgressive, a betrayal of my solid and unexciting little house. We’ve been together for so many years, you see, and it really was a perfect match all those years ago, but now I look at other houses and think about what might have been. Or could be.

There is one house for sale I keep looking up. The house itself is nothing special, aside from its spectacular 1960’s ranch house mojo. If we bought it I would spend months ripping out dirty carpet and pink toilets. But it backs up to the Patuxent river, with a half acre of land running down into the parkland at the river’s edge. I can imagine a garden tumbling down that hill, meeting the forest in a shrubby verge, and continuing along a mysterious path through the woods to the river at the bottom of the valley. I imagine Noah spending afternoons playing by the creek with his dogs, rather than playing Minecraft on the iPad.

But I keep circling around the idea that this little house of ours, with all its flaws, is somehow alive. I feel tender toward it, sorry for its hurts and insults, and I would grieve to leave it alone in the neighborhood without us. All of this is ridiculous. And yet I can’t help but feel that the lives lived in a house are connected to that house, that severing the link to a place severs the link to those lives. Maybe I feel this more keenly as someone with a terrible memory. I need the place to trigger the memory of things that happened there. I don’t want to lose the wedding rehearsal dinner in the backyard, the Thanksgivings with now-gone family, the sound of rain on the tree by our bedroom window, the feel of Noah’s skin as I rubbed his back at bedtime. I want to keep the lives I have lived in this house close to me, safe from time.

That nothing is safe from time, especially not a house or a memory, should be clear to me by now. And yet I am reluctant to willfully leave my past selves alone in a discarded house. I hope that when the time comes to go, as it inevitably will someday in the next fifty years, those past selves hold on tight and come along for the ride.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fairy Tale

Some things only come with time. A pergola hung with roses in June is one of them. And under this pergola with its softly falling rose petals we will celebrate Mom and Dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary this weekend. For just a few weeks this shabby little house looks like a fairy tale cottage, snug and embowered with blooms. No marriage is a fairy tale, but getting to celebrate fifty years of love and life surely is a story worth telling. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer in Review

Maybe the best spot from which to view my garden is the upstairs bathroom window, while sitting on the pot. I don't know if it is the angle and perspective down onto the garden, and the particularly nice view of the corner of the vegetable garden where, outside of the fence, there is a mix of plants that somehow looks just right, or if it is the enforced stillness that makes it the best place to actually see the garden. I don't know that I ever really look at it, except from that window. I sometimes wonder what my neighbor sees and thinks if she looks up at dusk and sees my head, back lit, peeking behind the bathroom curtain and down into the garden.

It has been a cool and lovely summer, a nice one for being out in and for looking out at. Last winter's polar vortex blasted many things, including the stink bugs and, I think, some of the Asian tiger mosquitoes. Some of the more wonderful things that were blasted, too, like Noah's fig tree, have come back. The fig's regrowth is now about 6 feet high, with some small green figs just shaping up. The limbs are soft and seem tenuously connected to the ground, but hopefully the tree is really and truly back. Noah won't be climbing it any time soon, but at least his friend is alive and well. The butterfly bushes seem to have enjoyed their bashing by frost, and are blooming beautifully this summer, and the raspberries are large and flavorful. It has been a less friendly year for the annuals, which got a late start and are just now taking off.

Grant and I forgot our wedding anniversary this month, and it occurs to me that our anniversary is also my anniversary with this little plot of land (roughly speaking, anyway, much to my mother-in-law's horror at the time). Eleven years I have gardened this one fifth of an acre. I still remember the warm summer night we had our rehearsal dinner in the backyard, and how wonderful the cosmos and salvias looked in their crescent shaped bed that arced across the back yard. That bed is gone, and new beds have been made and unmade over the years. I don't think, though, that one has ever been as beautiful or hopeful as that first sweep of flowers cut through a scruffy lawn. Happy anniversary, garden. And you, too, Grant.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Loss

The fig has died, I am afraid. I don't usually get too sentimental or even upset by the death of a plant, even an old large one, because the space it opens up is a space for something new. But this fig tree is Noah's special place to go when he is sad, or happy, or just needing time alone, his "happy place," as he calls it. The winter was too much for it.

It may spring from its roots, I suppose, but it will be years before new shoots are sturdy enough to climb on, and by then Noah will be beyond tree climbing. How can that happen, that a boy's tree climbing years are so fleeting? You cannot grow a tree for a child to climb, you must have one ready for him, or maybe plant one for your grandchild.

I remember the last figs we ate off that tree. Betsy came over with her family, and we picked the figs for her to take home. And now they both are gone, the friend and the fig, done in by a winter that was far too cold.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rats and Bleeding Hearts

The peas are well up, the lilacs are blooming, and the bleeding hearts are dripping their flowers over drifts of violets. I found today to my surprise that apple blossoms have a powerful, sweet scent. How did I not know that, after all these years in the garden?

While planting those bleeding hearts a few weeks ago I pulled up, in my bare hand, the dry skull of a rat. I knew it was a rat skull because I had put a dying rat under the shade of the rose of sharon last fall, after we found the screaming thing in the back yard, hurt and terrified and dying. I wondered then whether there was anything I could do for it, other than get it away from the dogs and keep it out of the sun. I considered all the grisly ways I could help it into the great beyond, but in the end could do nothing but give it shade and let it be. And so now when I look at the bleeding hearts I also remember a dying rat, and how it made me feel like a coward. There are hellebores and daffodils and hostas in that bed, too, and I like it very much.

The dogs may have been responsible for the rat, or it may have been the feral neighborhood cats. At Noah's suggestion we put in a little fish pond this spring, and stocked it with four little feeder fish from the pet store. They did well and grew madly for a few weeks, and I could see them jumping after food as I looked out the second floor bathroom window. And then one day three of them were gone, and today the last one went. The neighbor over the back fence says there is a heron that has eaten her neighbor's fish, and I suppose it could have also been a raccoon. But I see those cats in my backyard, walking the fence tops, and I blame them for it all, the fish, the rat, all of it.