Sunday, July 11, 2010

How My Garden Grows

by Zinta Aistars

Do some days simply shower us with blessings? Or is it just that we are somedays more aware of our bounty?

Past days, weeks, have been especially a bustle of busyness, social gatherings and catchings up and chitchats and meetings, dotted with pleasantries and celebrations of someone's this and another's that. All enjoyable. All part of a life I have chosen and embraced. What's this about age not being golden? I think, for women at least, it shines with gold as the years progress. We watch our children grow and thrive, no longer needing our daily guidance. Our homes are finally shaping up as we want them. Our careers settle into a pace that we know and by now master. Our friendships are deep and rich. Shallow relationships are swept away by storm or faded into happy oblivion, no longer serving their purpose. Our priorities have aligned by a life of learned wisdom. Gone the shallow pursuits and frivolous follies. We know who we are as pass by that 50, and by golly, if we don't like it. By now, we don't push around so easy. I yam what I yam and that's just fine.

Yes, life is rich, and I slip out of bed on a sunny Sunday morning, and find myself smiling before my eyes are even open.

Several-day guests are gone. The morning is quiet, and mine. Only the chuffing of my coffee pot, only the chirping of a bird, only the scrambling of a fat squirrel on my back deck. There are always tasks awaiting, always more than any one day can handle, but I keep my pace slow, easy and slow, and count my first blessing: this day.

So counted, more tumble in.

And more.

None of them earth shattering. Yet still. One thing after another rocks my world softly, gently, until I feel like the entire day is a warm hug.

Before the summer temperatures heat up overmuch, I take my mug of fragrant coffee out on the front step and sit, sip, sit. I am watching my flowers grow. The two rows of white petunias alongside the walk. The striped Jacob's Ladder, the soothing lavender, the asters and lilies and yellow daisies, the purple clematis and white peony and pale pink hydrangea. My son has finished building a white picket fence from one side of the house to the boundary, painted the shutters white so they glow against the deep blue of the house. He's left the new red wheelbarrow out by the garage, and I leave it there ... it looks right in that very spot, it belongs, like the poem about a red wheelbarrow.

This house ... I very nearly despised it, for so many years ... how is it that now I grow warm inside just looking at it? Suddenly, it has begun to look like a cozy blue cottage, and who would have thought, me, the nomad, living behind a white picket fence?

I catch myself laughing out loud.

A neighbor across the street waves and I wave back at him, getting up to go inside for a refill. My second mug takes me to the back deck. I settle into a chair on the deck and watch my potted vegetables grow here. Six tomato plants, a Santa Fe pepper, several cucumbers just beginning to wind a green path. Several tiny green tomatoes are rounding out their green bellies, ever so slowly, not so slowly at all, growing bigger to suit my appetite for fresh salad.

And isn't a tiny green tomato a blessing? Even a very fine one?

I sit, sip, sip, sit.

The morning grows warmer.


It is time for me to go inside. A message from my daughter glows on my telephone screen, and I text her back, sending love. My old pup Guinnez leans against my leg, and I curl my fingers into his thick ruff, lean over to nuzzle his muzzle, growing white with his years. Old cat Jig yowls for her turn.

A book, then. I plump a pillow into the corner of the couch, that favorite reading spot between windows under three bell-shaped pendant lamps. Cat and dog take their place. They snooze, I read, and Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying is a fine lesson, very fine, and I am lost in his astounding simplicity, one that reminds me of my youthful days of fallling in love with Papa Hemingway ... those spare words, that way of drawing me in completely, no pretense, no gaudy styling or showing off, no heavy verbiage, but real emotion subtly revealed in honest voice. That final lesson is what makes a man of honor, allows him to walk to his death with a straight spine and clear conscience. I am witness to art, and am moved, even to tears by the final page.

I sit, sip, closed book in lap, and breathe in another blessing.

My cell blinks a red eye with another message arrived. This one has traveled far. It comes to me from overseas, and I sit up, pushing mug aside, to read. Family ... what greater bounty? Near or far. No matter the years unseen. I have been continually amazed by how puzzle piece after piece has fallen into place as the time nears for my journey home, to my other home, on the Baltic Sea. Friends and family offering places to stay, cars to borrow, itinerary falling into place like a neatly planted bed of white petunias, waving lacy handkerchiefs in greeting from far away. My cousin offers keys to a summer cottage on the Baltic Sea, a short drive south of Ventspils, but a few kilometers from our ancestral home, Tomdeli, where my father, grandfather, great-grandfather lived. My friend in Riga tells me he will be at my disposal ... wherever you wish, there I will take you, what are friends for? To bless us, to bless us, and to allow us to be a blessing in kind.

I read the new message. My arrival is eagerly awaited. My letter has been passed around and read together. My long absence, nearing 17 years now, is forgiven. A tear has been shed in empathy for the story of my years that has kept me stranded. I am not alone. I never have been. At bottom of the letter is a list of everyone's telephone numbers. Gaidam tevi! Gaidam visi Tevi ciemos! Sirsnigas bucas no visiem!

Someone somewhere far away is waiting for me. In my mind, years vanish, and I see all of their faces again, see the mirroring of my own features, the sounds of my native language, and when I read of another's tear, spilt for me, I spill one of my own. I long thought I would never find Home. I now know, in my older woman's deeper wisdom, I have several Homes, and I have only to reach out to find someone reaching back to me.

Oh, I am wealthy, and this day swims and rocks gently on wave after wave of blessing. If I feared there could be no going home again, I was right, there is no going back, but to go forward, to come full circle, and complete that journey with hard wisdom won is an even better ending. Even as it is a new beginning.

It amuses me now. How long I have lived where I have lived, in this cornflower blue house with white shutters, and been blind to it. So a wall or two needed to be knocked out. So a new window or two needed to let more light in. So a new fence needed to draw boundaries for better neighbors, what to keep out and what to keep in. Sometimes to travel around the world, all you have to do is to turn full circle.

I sit, sip, sit, and watch my garden grow.

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