Cherries and pinks (dianthus). Poor cherry tree split in two during the storm, and the homeowner said I could cut whatever I wanted. Usually people tell me ok. Maybe I do look a little crazy, standing on the front step in my floppy peachy hat and indescribable hair, brandishing my dollar-store pruners and fit-over-glasses shades.
I still miss someone, and my heart and body are brimming over with that silence. There’s nothing I can do to change the situation, and the time has passed when things could have gotten better. I didn’t expect my initial sadness to echo in a second wave with so much force, after all this time. I still feel surprised sometimes when I catch my true feelings out of the corner of my eye. Hope is the biggest secret I keep from myself.
So let’s just act like it’s summer that is breaking my heart – with her pinks and cherries, stocks and sweet peas, tiger lilies and fireflies and sun-baked grasses.
Because she always, always does.
Figuring there had to be at least 57 instances, I did a little calculation. Since 2004, we’ll say – (safely) four times a year – but who’s counting? Equals about this many countless moments of delight in the company of delightful you. And all I can tell you is you made my life immeasurably better always – and I am happy it’s your birthday.
Another trip on Saturday to Larkspur and Forget Me Not, Sweet Pea and Fever Few. It was hot here by 8 a.m, even in the yellow-nylon shade of the farmer’s market pop-up tents, and on the rain-soft grass of Ann’s lawn, sweeping down to the river. I brought a bucket of water with me so the flowers could have a long, cool drink on the drive home.
I pretend to dislike hot weather, so I don’t have to argue with people about how terrible the summer is. But years of being force-marched to the Fullerton Avenue beach taught me not to resist the sweltering. Just another crabby Park District day-camper, kept in straggling line by the unsympathetic teenage children of Who Got You That (Patronage) Job. And no – in 1972, no one was lugging along water to keep us hydrated. That’s what the drinking fountain is for, ferchrissake. No, we’re NOT stopping on the way. Wait til you get to the beach. Jeee-sus.
I guess if I’m not a little too hot, it just doesn’t feel like summer.
Regrettably, there is only one story in my heart to tell. For a while, it seemed I had forgotten the words to this story – a blessing, maybe, like the welcome discomfort of summer heat. The words came back to me this week, though – surprising me with their intemperate confidence. I blurted out a lot of things I shouldn’t, and showed a lot of feelings I’m not supposed to.
The silence afterwards is a familiar traveling companion – although too indifferent to my feelings to be called a friend. I know this silence very well. There won’t be any answer. I just wish I could stop hoping.
Oh, dear. Sunday still makes me miss you, despite how impractical that is. And unless I start from there – well, it has to be said, before I can say anything else.
Before I can say how I fell in love again with this plain, green place. The swells and curves of its horizon holding steady along the roadside. The blue Saturday sky and the promise of rain, no matter how white and harmless those shining, puffy clouds may be. Open the windows. Not in a hurry.
Before I can tell about the bull frog groaning from the dark, stone crevices lining the pond, or the ornate pattern on the toad that skipped away between the green stalks of the larkspur. “That bullfrog would eat that little toad for lunch,” Ann told me. “They’re cannibals.”
The breeze from the river, brushing away the rising heat for a little while. The vanilla sweet fragrance of valerian, as delicious as a bakery – and the thick familiar spice of peonies unfolding as I cut my share. The immeasurable privilege to ogle their louche, decadent petals for a few days, as if they were my own. Cornflowers already at the farmer’s market, and even some ranunculus. Dude crooning Pink Floyd from the pop-up tent stage. “Home…home again…I like to be here when I can…” Dude. No one at the Fort Atkinson Farmers Market is that hung over.
But mostly: talking in the quiet kitchen over iced tea. Talking in the kitchen, in a home where I am at home. No need to be good or not cry. Just drink iced tea and talk and listen. How much closer to heaven can Saturday get?
“We do not know the full story, we do not know where we are in the story…”
Early of an evening, Maureen let me cut iris and the spent heads of allium globes – as beautiful in their constellation of seed pods as they are in their starry purple flowers.
“Stay for dinner,” she said, “Max is making stir fry.”
And just like that, life returned to itself from a bad dream. Except we know that terrible distortion of our world was true. And exactly what has happened, we will be learning for a long time to come.
To sit around the table – together – together. To tell each other how we are – and to see with our own eyes the toothy laughs we shared over pea pods and chicken and white wine and cherries. I can hardly believe the miracle of it. And the wonder of irises opening still.
It’s important to remind myself why I’m buying flowers every week.
This week I got sunflowers and asters and alstroemeria – with some wild phlox tangled in, cut from the embankment behind my building. I had some dear people in mind when I picked out those flowers – and filled the blue canning jar, and the white pitcher with something I imagine they would like. It was wonderful to gather all the shapes together – the wild phlox pointing every which way between the tiny purple daisies and the juicy big sunflowers. Handfuls of late summer prairie on a rainy May morning. The radiant nacho-orange of the sunflowers makes the other petals glow – perking up their reddish-purple like a blazing sunset. Deep yellow is friends with almost every other color.
As it turned out, though, I had more than enough to see with this lovely creature, purloined from a spirea that rambles along the edge of public park, behind a neighbor’s overgrown back-forty.
Yes. I went on my walk this morning with a cup of water in one hand and garden snips in my pocket, wearing my highly conspicuous, floppy orange hat. It was raining when I went. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the park. I really wanted some spirea.
On the way home, I lost the spring that opens and closes my Dollar Store garden snips. I paid the price. Totally worth it.
I said to myself several times yesterday, “Sandy’s Birthday – call and leave her a message.” Always thought it in the middle of doing some Saturday thing – and wanting to wait until I could concentrate my attention on you. And then, May 15 was gone and it was a day later.
I thought about when you and Bob stayed with us in Apartment 402. Pammy and I were so excited find our beautiful cousin and her funny, sweet man arranged in their sleeping bags in the living room. A Ballerina! In our Very House. Much, much better than a Princess.
Of course, I just remember the big impressions – the way Mama loved and admired you, that Marv was happy to have a reason to be his jovial, entertaining self. I believe a fair number of Brown Cow floats were made and enjoyed. I’m sure Pammy and I wanted you to stay forever and show us how to be tall and graceful and have perfect long brown hair.
And that’s exactly what you did.
Much, much love, darlin’ Sandy. Happy Birthday!
Another night falling asleep in the middle of the flowers. And tonight my poor little brain slept right through midnight. Technically, it’s Monday – but let’s keep that to ourselves.
I have to go back to sleep, honeys. It was a good Mother’s Day. The flowers saw to that. Sending you all my love. – B.
Darling, I fell asleep again in the middle of writing you. I get so tired and I close my eyes – and woosh, I’m off to that warm, dark quiet cloud. And I don’t even hear Inspector Barnaby arrest the killer. I mean, there sure are a lot of murders in the Midsomer area, aren’t there? Why are their real estate values still so high?
So let’s just consider that I’ve already told you all the things I needed to say and just get to the heart of it: I love you with all the petals I can get my hands on. Can’t help it. Sweet dreams, Dreamy Dear. So warm and dark and Sweet.
April has its reasons for flowers. New jobs and new places. Hours and hours more daylight. Even a little housekeeping feels like a celebration, with the windows finally open, and the bluster of birdsong coming in with the breeze, declaring nests and territories and competitions all along Whitcomb Drive.
But most reliably, April has birthdays that come two by two by two in our family. Pammy and me and Lily. And Barbara and Patsy, who hold the 29th day of April for their own arrival on Planet Earth. Separated by an ocean of time but both beautiful mirrors of love and delight in this life – and oh, equally possessed of the whimsiest sense of humor because, after all – April has finally won and there is plenty to laugh about.
All the love my heart can give, to you my dear – and many whimsy returns.