When we started making plans to have our yard landscaped, my husband very seriously joked that I could have it my way, but I would be the one tending to all those rose bushes. I willingly agreed because I have no problem "tending" to flowers. I am implausibly clumsy at times, so I generally avoid mowing or using a weed-eater. Let's not tempt fate; I should stay far away from anything with a blade, let alone a blade that spins! But flowers are different. Plants. Soil. Things growing. I can sink my fingers into those blossoms of life without worrying one bit about the grit under my fingernails. It has always been therapeutic for me, in a way I haven't been able to explain. Until now.
Shortly after Russ leaves for work each morning, I go outside and tend to those new plants in the only ways I know at this point: plucking dead blossoms to make space for new ones, snatching any stray weeds, and making a beautiful mess of showers with the water hose. That's where I found myself this morning. Before the sun was too hot, and while the grass was still wet with dew, I was there; absorbing the blooming life around me and letting it breathe a little natural beauty into my soul. Baby gardenias line one wall of our house, and as I hovered over them, I couldn't help but think that those gardenias smelled a lot like honeysuckle. As a child, I loved that sweet smell, and this morning I was thrilled to realize that such a similar fragrance would be blooming just outside our front door. So I took a minute to breathe it in. That scent washed over me, carrying with it a flood of childhood summer remembrances. Not a specific memory, not one particular event, but a full collage of glimpses into my past that generate more of a feeling than a specific thought.
Do you ever have those memory-like feelings? Those moments in which you can almost tangibly touch something within yourself that, were it not for a scent or a shadow, you would have long since lost?
That was my moment, right there, in the middle of those gardenias and roses. I watched my hands work, remembering those women-heros of my childhood who diligently accomplished the same tasks. I remember watching my grandmother's hands tend to little red perennials that always bloomed perfectly under her care. I remembered my aunt's garden gloves that spent most of their time lying in the dirt, neglected. Those ghost-gloves flashed before me, briefly, as I stared at my fingers. I always assumed she simply forgot to wear them. Now I wonder if, maybe, she knew something I am just now learning.
Something a little deeper than the dirt.
Maybe we spend so much time protecting ourselves, building barriers against any hidden thorns or grit, that we forget to reach out and really sink our fingers into the beauty of life. Ironically, isn't that where the most beautiful flowers bloom? In the richest, darkest, dirtiest dirt?
As much as I hate to admit it, I can be a bit of a worrier. I like to plan. I like to prepare. I do not favor uncertainty. I keep my hands clean of problems as much as possible. Yet, crouching there this morning, dirt on my hands and feet, a few scrapes from a surprise thorn or two - there, completely unprotected from any uncertain elements, I felt at peace, relaxed, and absorbed in the beauty around me. I didn't notice the dirt; I was too focused on the blooms. Too often in life, my perspective is just the opposite.
So I smiled a little smile of gratitude, because I learned a new lesson from women I thought this life had forced me to tell goodbye. Today, they taught me that sometimes, a little dirt does a soul a lot of good.