Sunday, May 29, 2011

Desire Lines

The warm bath that passes for air this week, reminds me why I want to return to living in the Pacific Northwest. In the spring it’s easy to forget. But now, already, the air conditioning has been on much of the week. Though I have turned it off and opened the windows the past two nights, I know the nights that is feasible will soon be over for the duration--the duration being too many months away.

Along with afternoon steam, though, the rains make the garden--and me--happy. Second only to mountains, there is no place I would rather be than in the garden after a good rain; particularly in the early morning, or in the evening when the sun has gone down reducing the sauna-effect. The air smells fresh and fragrant, water drops cling to leaves, and I can almost see my garden growing and blooming. There have been some lovely rains this week.

As I sit in the Adirondack chair on my porch after work, with a glass of Cabernet and a book, a strong gust of wind blows through the trees. A handful of last year’s leaves blow down and scatter across the yard and porch; one falls into my lap. Some leaves come down with the first windy days of the late southern fall and most come down before the cold winter; but a hardy few cling to their branch through the snow and into the resurrection of spring. I feel the familiar ache of sadness. No matter how hard the winds of difficult times blow, there is going to be some lingering pain. I think, as fiercely as the wind blows at the beginning it should all be blown out of me. Then, long after the initial grief, the self-doubt, the anger, another gust of wind blows more of it out and away. My knee follows suit. After several days of recuperation it feels so good that I forget I just had surgery and overdo it. Pain returns and I have to back off from activity again. I am frustrated. Healing takes time.

Two friends left on a jet plane this week, and one in a car, for points west. The one who left in the car will be back, the other two will not. They are all following their lines of desire.

You know those dirt paths in parks and campus quads and the National Mall that crisscross the carefully laid out paved paths? I read that landscape architects call them desire lines. They are visual evidence of the places we really want to go, regardless of where the architects, in all their research and planning, think we should go. Some walkers begin those dirt paths, others use those forged by others, and many of us want to create or at least use them but follow the "right" ones instead. I suspect that no matter how many desire lines get paved over time, someone will make another one. I also suspect the desire to be outside the lines is strong, but many of us are afraid to step off the path. Although I rarely follow the renegade paths, I can see that my decisions over the second half of my adult life to do what I am supposed to do--or thought I would do--end at paths laid out through the grass. I stay on each path I establish long enough to feel safe and comfortable and then I start watching for the next one calling to me. I wait for kairos, the right fertile time. One day I, too, will leave on a jet plane or in a car and cut a renegade path to points west.

The ground is soft after the rain this week, so I spend a couple of hours pulling weeds and the last of the pansies. I love the space the subtraction adds to the garden. It looks clean and ready. I am not quick to fill all of the spaces, though I do make a Farmers' Market run for a few more perennials. I am still trying to get something to grow in some of the gardens. I buy plants beloved for their foliage, their steady beauty are some of my favorite garden dwellers. My departed friends leave space, but in truth they are like the pansies. I have been gradually pulling the pansies over the past month; just as my friends' lives have diverged from mine over time. The loss doesn't feel sudden. I am ready to fill some of the space.

The last of the old leaves blow off the trees as the garden comes back to life. I wonder if it can get any more beautiful--everything is so fresh and new as it emerges from its hibernation.
And then the cone flower blooms, and the yarrow, and I find the first bloom of the Purple Heart after the rain. The annuals increase in girth and bloom, and the ferns and hostas get bigger. The grove of  banana trees is already as tall as I am, which is as tall as it got all last season. I observe the baby birds visiting the feeder and I pick fresh basil and the first squash for my dinner. Does life get any better than this? I sit on my porch in the Adirondack chair with my Zinfandel and I am content.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hell in the Hallway

The adage, when God closes a door, she opens a window, can be helpful if one is feeling short on trust; but my friend Dori adds, "but it's hell in the hallway!" and that bow to Reality makes it easier for me to live into the faith part. Transitions are part and parcel of a satisfying life--in my humble opinion. The alternative is a never-ending status quo, which seems like death to me.

When I was a student at South Bay School, my playground-activity-of-choice was the flying rings. I was not then--or ever--an athlete, though I was something of a tomboy. But in my inflated memory, I was a very daring second grade Master of the Rings. When it was my turn I shouted out, as the rule of playground etiquette mandated, that I was GOING HIGH!, a warning to hapless idiot children not to choose that moment to walk under the playset. On at least one memorable occasion, someone in the adoring crowd crowed back that WHEN SHE SAYS HIGH, SHE MEANS HIGH! A proud moment. The thing about the rings is that there is no way to traverse them without letting go with one hand and, as you twirl your body 180 degrees, live through the space before the next ring is in your hand. The scaredy-cat children, in their fear of that space, would let their bodies come to a dead stop before letting go; but then, of course, there is no way to get to the next ring, and so they drop to the ground. Those who can't let go of the ring, miss all the life-on-the-edge fun of flying.

Transition--that space between the familiar and the next big thing when there is nothing to hold onto--is hallway time. It is scary. It is hell in the hallway. Humanitarian Danaan Parry said, "I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition is looked upon as a 'no-thing,' a no-place between places. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the [rings] are illusions we dream up to avoid where the real change, the real growth occurs for us." That's some shit to ponder, huh?

I had knee surgery this week for a torn meniscus, and have experienced the transition between an unhealthy knee and the coming healthy one. While I didn't like the reduction in activity resulting from the damaged knee, I was familiar with it. I let go of the ring when I decided to have the surgery without real knowledge of what the convalescence would be like, or for that matter, the result. I had to ring-dangle in the hall for a few weeks stewing about that. Now, post-surgery, the next ring is in within my grasp; but I am not good at enforced stillness--especially when the garden is calling. I am doing okay with it. I only transplanted one thing this weekend. Well, two, but I thought it was one. Just a hosta that has languished for three years; not happy were it was planted. I practically pulled it out of the ground; and I was careful to work my shovel with my left foot, so no worries. I also might have ripped down some nandina from the base of the pyracantha where it keeps sprouting up, since I was right there. And while I was at it, I guess I pulled a few weeds. But mostly I sat in the aderondack chair on the deck. I observed life in the garden that requires a stillness that I usually don't take time for.

Saturday's Scone and Journal Time was on my deck, since I couldn't drive. It was hard not to be at my accustomed table at Cafe Carolina, but the birds are better. I do love watching the LBBs feeding their young the crumbs from under my chair at the Cafe, but the variety on my deck was a transition time highlight. Cardinals, towhees, flitting chickadees, and a couple of unknowns that I tried to identify in my Backyard Birds book. My favorite, the tufted titmice/ mouses/ meese, whose mohawks bounce up and down as heads bob to the seed and back. Even the first hummingbirds of the season whirred by.  Lots of babies, transitioning from nest to flight, are among the feeders. Along with the birds I have watched a squirrel stalking a cardinal across the lawn--and eating the birdseed. Really, it had no interest in the cardinal, but that’s what it looked like. A baby robin hopped about while mama called to it. I think it didn’t mean to be out of the nest. A cardinal couple engaged in a public display of affection, and a hawk made lazy circles in the sky. My cat has a fascination with the dwarf mondo wild phlox buttercup garden at the back of the yard. I wonder what is of such interest; I'm not sure I want to know.

Transition is happening in the garden, too. Early bloomers are transitioning to seed pod, later bloomers from bud to blossom, vegetation of summer flowers to come is growing at the speed of light, and my vegetables are transitioning to, well, vegetables. The winged seeds of the Japanese maple let go of their hold on the branch and twirl airborne to the ground where they begin a new life. The euphorbia I transplanted several weeks ago from its spot in an area too shady has put on new growth. The summer phlox is re-established and standing tall. The miniature hosta I moved from its  burial spot in the creeping Jenny seems happy. 

The leaves of the early bulb bloomers are transitioning back into the soil as they siphon strength from the sun down to the bulbs in preparation of their time of rest and rejuvenation until next season. “The earth is its own museum, and the admission is free. Until you die, then you become part of the exhibit” (Jo-Ann Mapson).

Speaking of death, my sister--who came to help me navigate Post-surgery Transition-- took us for a drive through the cemetery. Only freshly ground mulch from the toppled trees and the occasional stump still to be ground out give clue to the fact of Tornado Destruction such a short time ago. You can’t even tell which trees lost their tops--did they cut them down, or just prune them beyond identification? There’s something that feels not quite right about the quick repair. Did it need more time in the hallway? I think I needed it to.

I have observed in myself and others that there can be a lot of anger during times of transition. I have been privileged to be present during the birth of a baby. A whole lot of uninhibited anger expression as the baby travels down the birth hallway. And there's a reason the baby cries when it emerges, beyond the physical need. It's mad as hell! When the transition is not one's choice, job or relationship loss, for instance, anger is practically a given. In her book, Life is a Verb, Patti Digh wonders how often, though, might anger really be fear? We just want other people to act right. Our employers to recognize our valuable contributions and keep us. How dare they kick us from the nest! Our lovers and partners not to dump us, when clearly we are the best thing that ever happened to them. We are Angry! And they could at least pretend to continue to care about us after they fire us, lay us off, dump us and move on without a care in the world about our pain. But what is our real interest? Could it be fear? Fear of change, fear of going it alone, fear of chaos? When I left my former partner, I understood that her uncontrolled anger was because it is less painful somehow to be angry than sad; but what if it was fear? I don't know that she could have allowed me to give voice to that, but it might have helped me think about her reaction differently. What if our anger actually has little to do with the other person not acting right? Might that insight make all the difference in our internal gardens?

A favorite poem of mine is The Layers, by Stanley Kunitz (
"...In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
'Live in the layers,
not on the litter.'
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes."
Liminal space. 

Between the layers. 

In the hallway. 


That is where life is lived.

Holding onto the rings with both hands

is just where we rest

between life's real events.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jumping to Fly

My thoughts are all over the place this morning regarding this post. First I am wondering about continuing to write it. Next Sunday marks this blog's one year anniversary--a year in the garden with you. What more is there to say? Will I have to keep looking back to the corresponding month from a year ago to see that I have already written about the mulberries staining the driveway, and having to sweep them daily so I can walk to my garden door? Have I written about lessons learned from pulling annuals out of the ground to plant new ones? Wondering if the zinnia seeds are going to come up, or if I have to replant with seedlings? About my boredom with the summer garden? Is one year of my life exactly the same as the last? Should I continue the risk of writing--even metaphorically--about my work self, or do I need to censure myself? Maybe it's time to stop; I just don't know. I would love your feedback. But I still have today's post before the year is complete. 

"If we want to have all our bases covered before we act, nothing exciting will happen. But if we dare to take a few crazy risks, because God asks us to do so, many doors, which we didn’t even know existed, will be open to us." (Unknown) I took a risk a year ago; a risk that I could figure how to do a blog, and that anyone would care. I know now that I could figure it out, and that there are people who care. And it has changed me.

When we jump, we risk falling--in fact, we guarantee falling--but not before we fly. Taking crazy risks doesn't always work out, but it always gets us unstuck; it always takes us to a new place, at least for a time. I took a wild, some would say stupid, risk when I bought my house four years ago. I knew it was beyond my means; but I fell in love. I had potential resources, but I didn't know if I would be able to tap them. And I did it anyway. I let myself hear and feel the persistent voice in the breeze telling me to jump; and it changed my life. We can collect data, organize spreadsheets, graph the results. But in the end, it is our gut that tells us all we need to know. The past two weeks at work (here I go) I have spent hours collecting membership and pledge data for a committee; and yes, graphing the results. I am sure it is important information; but if we don't look at why people join the church, why they leave, why they do or do not pledge, isn't the information a little bit worthless? And do we really need the statistics to know that all of those things are happening? After I took the plunge and signed the mortgage, my mother chose to help me with the gap in financial resources; but before that happened, I had to be okay with the possibility that I would fall. My mother has now given me birth and life twice. Thank you, Mama.

And then there are the annuals. It doesn't look like I wrote about them a year ago; so I will risk repeating myself. I have mixed feelings about annuals. By definition, they don’t have longevity. The enduring seasonal color when it get too hot for the proliferate bloom that is spring, though, makes up for the necessity of replanting every summer and fall. They don’t provide the excitement of discovering emerging plants in the spring, but different varieties can be planted each year, keeping the garden new and fresh. I plant annual seeds, then forget what I have planted and where; and never know which seeds have been transplanted by birds scratching for worms, or eaten, or just failed to germinate and not come up at all. The excitement of watching the seeds transfigure to sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias sustains me after the perennials have finished their emergence.

At times my history of relationship feels more like an annual than a perennial. I am assured by dear friends, however, that 15 year partnerships do not define me as a flitter. I know I have an affinity, though, for the early years when two people are exploring and discovering each other and themselves in relationship; and then when the awkwardness and constant need for watering has passed, but each year is bigger and more full of flowers. It’s when two people grow so close together they lose their individual identities and with it their ability to bloom, that I get spooked. When they become so comfortable that they don’t even notice what is happening, and forget the need to constantly prune and reshape to keep the relationship thriving. Like learning from what doesn't work in the garden, perhaps the knowing and paying attention is the key; and that I can try again and trust it will make the difference.

A hard thing about annuals is that the gardener has to pull the previous season's bloom to plant those for the coming season. Space must be created for whatever is more likely to thrive in the coming months and years. The last couple of seasons, I have pulled the old annuals in stages and planted between what's left. Yesterday I pull the second round of pansies. I had already planted marigolds, now I plant vinca and batchelor's buttons. I hate to pull the leggy, but still colorful pansies; but when I do I discover beauty it the space it creates.

I also transplant some summer phlox and iris that are crowded. I don't really like iris, and I would have been just as happy to throw them out, but I have a large empty space that calls for something to be planted; so I move both to the new spot. The phlox immediately wilted, but after a couple of waterings, they have taken to their new home. The iris are still prostrate. They may not perk up until next season. It's probably not the time to transplant them, but it was time to remove them from their old home. I think of my two dear friends who are moving at the end of the month--and not down the road. Really moving; putting several states between them and me, and each other. And I think of my friend and co-worker whose eleven year tenure at our workplace is being celebrated today as she gets ready to jump into a different life. My friends, I tell you this: you will be like the summer phlox and the iris. It will take time to reestablish your roots. A short time or a season. But you are following your gut, taking a risk, jumping. Jump high, spread your wings, and fly, fly, fly.

Summer is around the corner; the time I feel disconnected from the garden. I become tired of watering, tired of weeding, tired of dead-heading, tired of trying to keep things alive through drought and heat. Nothing new is happening. If the garden lives, great. If it dies, ‘cest le vie. I prefer creating to maintaining. But now it is the middle of May; the sundrops by the front steps are bursting into bloom, the passion flower did bloom this year, the violets did not (thanks to the munching four-legged thief), all five hydrangeas are full of the green-yellow of beginning bloom and are shyly showing a few blue or purple petals. The weeping Japanese maple tree that replaced the rhododendron that failed to thrive is thick and luscious. New in the garden this year are the red poppies I sewed in the fall from seeds Robin gave me. I love how the blossom struggles out of the hull, like a bird out of an egg. Pieces of the covering that protected it still clinging to the petals. And then how the spent bloom transforms again into a seed pod for next year's bloom. To be constantly transforming ourselves and our relationships is a natural progression.

I take a step back from my cynicism and look into the months ahead. Maybe this will be the summer that I take care of my relationship with the garden through the hard days; the days when I want to just give up and let it fend for itself. Maybe this will be the summer that the rain and temperatures meet me halfway. But I have no control over that. Maybe, one day, I’ll have another opportunity to grow within a relationship. Perhaps I will have a partner who will meet me halfway through the hard times. Maybe I will learn to always be watching for what is new, rather than assuming stagnation. Maybe I will be more intentional about maintaining. Maybe I will sit back and enjoy what I have created, rather than wanting to create something new all the time. Maybe I will jump.

This week (Wednesday) is my meniscus tear surgery. I have never had surgery before. I don't know what to expect. Yes, I am familiar with the data, but in reality, what it will be like for me is still a mystery. (As I write this, I look up and see the orthopedist doing my surgery in the Cafe. I have never seen him here before. What does it mean? That he and his family are hungry, I guess. Or is it reassurance?) I do know I will have five days without work, either at my workplace or in the garden. I will have time to read. I would love to hear about times you have jumped, taken a crazy risk, and what happened. I hope you will leave a comment on this post, send me an email (, or leave a message on Facebook. I would love to know who you are, who my readers are. Thank you for reading this blog and joining me in the garden for at least some part of the past twelve months. You mean everything to me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Catbrier and Passion Flower

Wikipedia defines a weed as “a plant considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance ...generally a plant in an undesired place.” I like that I get to decide what is a weed, and what is a desirable or an undesirable place in my yard and garden for it to proliferate. My lawn is a botanical wonderland of tiny yellow, white, pink, purple, and blue flowers in the spring, which is fine with me. I desire to have as many violets growing in the grass and flower beds as possible. And I don't mow down the wild phlox until it finishes blooming, even though the dwarf mondo it grows in needs a haircut. It can grow anywhere it wants to. I have even been known to move both invasive plants to other locations. On the other hand, for three years I pulled by the garbage can full the English ivy that goes for $2.99 per 3” pot at Logan’s Garden Shop. I have cut down a dozen $19 Nandinas growing in undesirable places. I am not a big fan of Nandina. The red berries provide the only spot of color some of the year, and it does have its place as a screen between my yard and the neighbor's or to fill a blank wall of house or shed, but it does not need to be in all the places it wants to grow. I do love the wisteria that grows beanstalk-like up the trees. I know it’s not good for the trees, but someone else will have to cut it down. They aren’t my trees, anyway.

There is barely a blade of grass in my yard. On the downside, the weed-lawn grows fast; on the upside, it stays green all summer. The lawn is not my priority. If I could afford to convert lawn to no-lawn, I would do it in a heartbeat. A plant I have declared a weed is carpetweed––apparently whoever named it also considered it a weed. It creeps from the lawn with its little white flowers and into the garden. I don’t mind it in the yard, except that it grows too tall not to mow; but I surely don’t want it in the garden where it chokes the flowers. When the ground is wet from the spring rains, I easily pull it by the handfuls. But when the way-too-hot-for-spring sun bakes the ground, it doesn’t come out so willingly. Heartache without tears is a lot like that. Tears cleanse my pain and pull it from my chest. There are no tears when the hurt is masked by antidepressants or denial or anger or "putting on a happy face"--whatever ones preferred avoidance method--and the pain hovers below the surface. It’s harder to pull it up and out from a dry heart.

I have learned the names of many a weed that occupies my garden; I believe even my enemies deserve that small respect. A strong contender for Worst Weed in the Garden is the catbrier. A very thin vine with good-sized leaves and tiny wicked spines, it grows through the bushes––grabbing on every inch of the way with insidious tendrils––from a woody, far-reaching root that cannot be pulled out of the ground. The best I can do is cut it off, again and again. It is a godless evil. I feel like the catbrier at work in recent weeks. I have been more assertive than either myself or others are accustomed to. (I scored very low on the assertiveness scale in an inventory taken by the staff early in the year. Apparently that is a negative thing; I am just trying to improve my score.) It is my perception that I am being perceived as prickly because I hang tenaciously onto my needs. I was asked to write down what I needed to be successful in this time of staff transitions; apparently I wasn't supposed to share it--or endeavor to make it happen. My leaves feel stripped off, like leaves strip off the catbrier vine if I stupidly try to pull it from the ground. I am afraid to speak now. The catbrier doesn't care if it is maligned for its assertiveness; for better or worse, I do.

If the catbrier is the garden devil, the passion flower is the goddess. A garden acquaintance in the next neighborhood has one growing in her curbside garden. She says if she had known how invasive it is she never would have planted it; and now she can't get rid of it. It clings to all it encounters with soft, curly tendrils, and no accompanying spines. Perhaps she categorizes it as a weed. But I fell in love with the crazy flowers and got one. Mine is different from hers, it's evergreen for one thing. It didn't bloom last year, though the vine did well. This year it is covered with buds, and the first one opened this week. The spectacular flower on mine is also different from the equally spectacular flower on Robin's. No one could make it up. I wonder how one can insist on doing their own thing in a passion flower way, rather than a catbrier way. Or maybe it is just in the eye of the beholder and has nothing to do with the persistent boat rocker.

Many new flowers begin blooming this first week in May. The buds of the foxglove and freesia open. The Japanese iris, some of which I planted from new bulbs late last fall and some that I moved from sunless spots under trees, are blooming. I read that Japanese iris excrete a substance into the soil that causes them to "lose their vigor and decline over time." They should be moved to a place where irises have not been before. I find that true of relationships; and if we keep looking for connections, either with new people or with those we have been with for some time, in the same places where we have always looked, we will end up either with nothing or with settling for a less-than-satisfying something.

The first buds of my new roses opened. One bush, that struggled from the beginning, then staged a comeback, is truly not going to survive. Try as we might, not everything thrives. We are sad and then we move on. Because we have to. The peony is blooming, a beautiful but stupid flower that can't hold its huge head up on its slender base. I know some people like that.

The hydrangea, which I never thought much of until I had one in my own garden, is beginning its season-long bloom. It is the most amazing plant to me. It springs to life from "dead" canes and the blooms grace the garden from beginning spring green to dried dusty blue before frost. Right now they are a wedding bouquet in every bloom: delicate balls with individual flowers in various stages of green, white, and blue surrounded by green leaves. They are a heavy bloom like the peony, but forming on a strong stem. I know people like that, too. And yesterday I discover the tiny green sprout of my third elephant ear caladium pushing through the dirt. Gardening is not for the impatient. It is not supposed to be a perennial, so I am thrilled that it is hanging in there with me, and not just for a season.

On Saturday, I help a friend begin to reclaim her gardens. It feels good to pull ivy and vinca up by the bushel and cut down Rose of Sharons that block a hydrangea and grow up into trees. We prune back and cut down bushes that have overgrown its intended space. Clearing space for expansion and discovery; uncovering stepping stones from a long buried path. It is her time. I am honored to be a part of her reclamation, as well as that of her gardens.

Long-awaited passion flowers bloom in my life this week as I make my hearth room window enlargement vision happen, my view to the garden. And I am accepted into the week-long writers' retreat and workshop that I applied for months ago. The catbrier meniscus tear surgery is scheduled as well. And it won't interfere with anything on my calendar. I will be glad to have a strong, working knee again. I look forward to returning to my yoga practice.

My as yet unmet blogging friend wrote this tribute to me in her blog early this spring: "Hands in faded canvas gloves, she prunes and plucks, bending now and then to sweep the soil of debris. Budding stems, the fuzzy nubs of flowers opened slightly like the lips of sleeping newborns greet her as she moves about the garden, an earth doula in green rubber boots." The garden is awake, the squeezed tight buds are unfolding, color is coming to the earth. I accept as part of life and the garden that the catbrier and the passion flower must live side-by-side. That's just how it is. And after a thirst-quenching morning rain, here comes the sun. I am headed for the garden on this Mother's Day to help it make its way in the world, and to cut catbrier down; my sometimes unruly child and always, always my teacher.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Holes in the Universe

Tornadoes in the deep South stab a hole in the universe this week. Such total devastation is unimaginable to me. People who had little, now have less. Time will tell if the holes get filled, or remain a symbol of loss.  I visit the cemetery yesterday to check on the holes left in Raleigh's recent tornado. It is in a varying state of clean-up. Some of the trees and their holes are gone, no remnant of loss there. Others await stump grinding; and the Moore family's oak tree still has a huge trunk to be removed. I try to age the tree, but the saw blade scars make ring counting impossible for the uninitiated. It is nearly 50 inches in diameter. According to the internet, that could put it at 200 years, give or take a couple dozen. No hole will be left in the cemetery. Soon no one will remember that there ever was one. The hole in the gardenia in my garden, where I removed the shrub it once tangoed with, will take longer to fill in. People with big equipment make faster work of holes than nature does.

There is a hole in my meniscus. A flap tear, to be more accurate. It will soon be a hole. Surgery will remove the damaged part; but since there are no blood vessels, it can't heal itself, or be surgically healed. There will always be a hole there. It may give me problems in the future, perhaps in the form of arthritis;  but I will deal with that when the time comes. Meanwhile, hopefully, I will be able to resume pain-free activity, and for now forget the fact that I am hurtling toward old age.

Holes in relationships plague me always. I guess that is the price we pay for love. Two of my friends are moving west at the end of the month--without me, of all things. They will leave a hole in my universe. But thanks to the internet, perhaps they will not be so distant. Some people I see everyday, or who live close by, are farther away. One of my co-workers leaves at the end of the month, as well. Hooray for the Merry Month of May. People with a stronger will than mine to move on make short work of relationship loss; perhaps they have bigger equipment. I will grieve until there is no longer a point. And then, do doubt, I will grieve some more.

I clean up the garden yesterday--cutting or pulling some of the collapsed bulb leaves and tying up others; pulling weeds. It leaves empty space. It's not always a bad thing, empty space. It provides a chance to look at what's left and to dream about how to fill the spaces; or even to decide to leave them empty for a while. I find myself watching for natural holes, looking for space for something new; thinking about what is missing, both in the garden and in my life. And I realize that sometimes it is necessary to not just wait for holes to open up naturally and be made obvious to me, but to watch closely for them and even to cut out the unhealthy and create holes, to give that which is good space to expand or in which to plant something new.

The first two years in my garden were spent pulling English ivy by the garbage bag full. Bag upon bag upon bag. It left a lot of holes that I have been filling bit-by-bit ever since. The exercise helped heal my own holes, that I have also filled bit-by-bit during these years with the garden.

Five of my six roses are growing and budding. One is not. I am waiting to see what is to become of it; but I think it will eventually open up a hole. Perhaps it wasn't healthy to begin with, or was planted in the wrong soil or in the wrong light. Perhaps it just needs to be transplanted. Sometimes things that seem like a good thing initially turn out to be not-so-much. Trying to hang on to them beyond their natural lifetime is usually not a good idea. Being human, we have a tendency to forget that.

On the other hand, some plants are slow to come into their own. The peony in my side garden has six promising buds. Last year there was only one. The passion flower on the fence is covered in buds. Last year I replaced one that didn't come up from the previous year; and it did not bloom in its first season. Some of the longest relationships in my life have evolved at a snail's pace. And some that burst into bloom quickly had a short life span. Learning when to create a hole and when to wait patiently or to find new soil for the old takes years of practice, and an openness to the imperfection of it all.

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

(Leonard Cohen, Anthem)