Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Garden Walking -- the Cure for What Ails Me. . .

 Besides having my mother's birthday, and the anniversary of her death, on the March calendar, I realized today that it's also the month we listed our much-loved island home for sale two years ago. Overall, we've weathered the change well, I think, and I love being so close to some of the grandchildren; I thrive on so much of what the city has to offer. I decided from the outset that I couldn't invest energy in looking back; may have invested some, instead, in keeping the door to memory lane firmly closed, at least for the short term.

Occasionally, though, something like grief creeps in and settles for a bit.  I had a deep relationship with the piece of land we perched on for those twenty-some years, and I miss "my" beach, "my" huge cedar and fir trees, and I miss, especially, observing the seasonal changes in my garden so intimately.



So it's good to have antidotes at the ready.

 On Sunday, we popped over to the Van Dusen Botanical Garden to renew our memberships and enjoy the horticultural delights of late winter on the West Coast.
 Hellebores were the star, no question, but I was also cheered by the jaunty yellow aconites with their lacy green ruffs and the velvety purple spears of crocuses thrust up among them.



 And winter witchhazel

 The bark peeling on the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) -- because there are many more delights to a late winter garden than its blooms . . .
 And also, perhaps, because peeling bark is such a good metaphor for renewal, for change, for shedding the old, for adjusting to the new. . . .
 Already this week, three dental or medical appointments, and then beginning this afternoon, we have our favourite Five and Two (he's almost Three though! -- and yes, they're our only Five and Two, so I can pick favourites ;-)) until Sunday afternoon. We'll have to see whether I manage my usual Friday post -- Nana might be exhausted. . .

But if I do, I have at least Five Things to tell you about -- ranging from train tickets in Europe to Mason Bees in the fridge. Really.

Until then, I'll be happy to read any comments you leave. About winter blooms, or antidotes to Temporary Sadness, or about Moving or Change or whatever resonates this morning. . .



22 comments:

  1. I love your photos and your writing, Frances. So much resonates with me. It's been 2 years this month since I moved out of "the marital home" with my two sons. It was a wonderful white center-hall colonial, slate roof, very light inside. We'd lived there for over 20 years, and I'd re-done almost every room in that time, and completely relandscaped. I was so glad to get out of a horrible marriage that, at the time, I felt nothing about leaving the exquisite home in which I'd raised my two sons (singular pronouns deliberate). Since then, a year-long rental in the same town so that my younger son could finish HS, start college, and have January break with his friends; then a move to a city 200 miles away where my academic job is (I'd been telecommuting and going back and forth for 20+ years), another year+ in a rental. I've been looking for a house to buy here for 18 months, have been outbid several times. As for the "marital home" my ex bought me out and then recently sold it. It was painful to see the photos online. I'm hating the rentals more and more, and I'm looking very hard now for a house to buy, determined not to sign another lease. So I understand your feelings of dislocation and grief for a loved home and land.

    As for the deeper grief, I am so sorry about your mother. My mother also has a March birthday, and she has recently had a serious medical crisis. She is doing very well now, but she is about to turn 92 so I know what is coming.

    I love your blog and feel grateful that you take the time to post so often. It must be draining at times. I always read your posts although I comment infrequently.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words about the blog, Marie. I enjoy writing it, but you're right that it takes considerable work and energy, so it's lovely to know it matters to you.
      I hope you find a home that really fits, before too much longer. Yours is a powerful example of the pain and rewards of significant change. It must have taken such fortitude to change your life and your sons; I hope the satisfaction you must take from that huge, brave move sustains you until you find your nest.

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  2. So beautiful. And so Pacific Northwest - you are woodlands, which are to me the main signifier of your area and brings back our visit! I can imagine what it must have been like to leave behind a place with that land and that view. Not an ordinary beloved home.

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    1. We really are about the woods, here, and the sea -- you'd have loved wandering in these gardens if we'd had time. . .

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  3. Lovely garden to wander about in...so much beauty in that location...hellebore heaven!
    Its a bittersweet month for both of us...our Mom's were such a huge part of our lives...and the memory of them is still so fresh.
    Wishing you a gentle month...and enjoy those wee ones....ours all have the flu right now :-((

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    1. Yes! The hellebores are magic right now.
      Take care -- I hope your little ones bounce back soon and that you're able to avoid the bug...

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  4. I really understand your love for your island home. There is the incredible sense of being part of a place as opposed to just living there. If and when we eventually move from here, I don’t think I could ever return as a visitor.
    Ali

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    1. It's true, and it's hard to explain to people who've never lived on an island. Ours was very special, a community, a lifestyle, and although I've managed to go back once (for my GF's painting course), it took some serious resolve.

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  5. I am very connected to my space, as you know, but this year of living (really) dangerously has made me realize that my home is no longer that. When I move back to that address, it will be a different home - one that I am ready to love like a new baby. And I grieve the loss of my former home (even as I am the one who brought on its transformation - or should I say termination). My point is, I empathize, even if our situations are entirely distinct. The former me would have tried to talk you over to the bright side but, honestly, the longer I live, the more gratitude I have for everything - including grief. That house was the metaphoric you, for many years. To say good bye to it, while retaining your identity (and continuing to develop it) is apt to be heavy work sometimes. Talk about cognitive dissonance! At any rate, I stand with you. We're two people on opposite sides of a huge country, of different age and stage, leading different lifestyles (note: yours seems more fun right now!) but you aren't alone.

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    1. Thanks so much, K.
      The problem with "the bright side" you might previously have tried to talk me over to is that I know it, of course. It's why we made the move, as you know, and I know it was a good move for us. But -- as your wiser, improved (older! ;-) self knows, that doesn't mean there's no grief. Not regret, but grief. Words like yours really help, just to have this feeling acknowledged and validated in the understanding that I usually do pretty well on "the bright side" but that the dark lining might show up occasionally. xo

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  6. This may be a place-oriented grief but it may also be part of a larger time-oriented letting go. I sometimes feel that at this stage of life we spend a lot of time looking back and barely daring to glance forward because the road seems so rocky and unsure, none of our preparations being adequate. Also, it is probably natural but our civilisation spends all its time on the now,now,now!!! that we ignore it until it is too late. A fine line between morbid regret and genuine leave taking. I suspect, just like everything else, it is a wave we have to ride. Gardens really help. If I could see mine today - more snow, loads of it and still going - I would go and commune. As it is, I shall become a living metaphor, trudging onwards to the supermarket of hope to buy the milk of delight. Or something. Be brave. This too shall pass.

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    1. Well, sure. But the place was/is very particular and special and intimately known to me, so many memories of so many loved ones occupying every corner of it. I guess I'm just claiming a space for feeling its loss, even two years later (as I continue to feel waves of sadness over the loss of loved ones). The "this too shall pass," bravery is what I do much of the time. That's what getting to the gardens for a walk were. But sometimes acknowledging that grief, that loss, is as necessary, I believe, as theorising it away. Hope you managed to get your milk.

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  7. I have always admired your capacity to find "antidotes" to your grief. On the other hand, I often wondered were you put your feelings of loss. Of course letting go is part (and prerequisite) of making a fresh start, but it may also be a way of finding out what you do not (yet) want to relinquish forever. So I am wondering if it might not be possible to find a place to spend some holidays ervery year, with the sound of the waves in your ears and the smell of the sea in your nostrils and that huge space in front of you to see the sun rise (or set). A place to come back to when you feel the need. It would not have to be exclusively yours, perhaps you could share it with family or friends. Sorry for meddling. None of my business.

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    1. We're working on that, Eleonore, although it will take a while, and for the moment, we are committed to travelling to see the kids (especially the family in Europe). We did manage a few good seaside visits last year. And you weren't meddling at all -- I know that you relate to this especially because of your own attachment to your lakeside place.

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  8. Frances, your post above reminds me of the odd but real beauty offered by this shoulder season between winter and spring. And that today I should go outside to find and appreciate it.

    Ann in Missouri

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    1. Now I'm very curious about how the season manifests in Missouri, Ann. And I also think about the "odd but real beauty" in the "season between winter and spring" that you're experiencing metaphorically now, your loss still so fresh. I think of Tennyson's In Memoriam, his dream that "every winter change to spring," but meanwhile his being caught "with no language but a cry." The odd beauty of transitions, of moving from the cry into language. . . Sorry if I'm being too personal here in touching on your loss -- may you find some solace today in the "odd but real" beauty of the season.

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  9. I know what you mean; I miss the two large gardens- as you know our condo has nothing but a balcony- and "my" birds. I did not close the door shut, just let myself mourn and be happy the house was bought by a young family, just like we had been 25 years before. Le Duc went back on his last visit and was standing on the street in front of the house when the owner saw him and invited him in. She told him how happy they were there. We felt good about that.

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    1. I'm glad you were able to be more open in your mourning. For me, the loss was too much to risk looking at for a while, and I found it better to focus on the move forward. I could almost feel the solidity of the wall I put up whenever I glanced back in memory. Perhaps because it was so close after retirement, and the loss of our last three parents. Perhaps because the move was from a very special community, a rustic island lifestyle to a very concrete urban one. Lovely that you can know how much the new homeowners are enjoying the house -- that must be so satisfying.

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  10. It seems natural to become more melancholy at times as we get older . My parents died many years ago, I was thirty five when mum died, & now it is friends I am losing . Good friends , with shared memories , that I can’t replace . It has to be saddening & leaving loved homes is part of it . The wise Diane Athill says we should think our mortality every day for five minutes , to remind ourselves , then get on with living . I try to practice that & she’s right , the rest of the time can be very sweet . She says because it is finite . My time in the garden definitely helps . We don’t have the colour just now that you have in your lovely photos , but the wilder part of our garden is ‘carpeted’ with snowdrops - I’m sure you have them in your part of the world too . Such tough little flowers .
    Wendy in York
    PS Your island was very special

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    1. I agree that for many of us it does seem natural to become more melancholy as we get older. More and more losses sustained along the way, and as much as we try to be positive and to move forward, etc., etc., there has to be sadness, as you say, plus the moving forward is inevitably in the direction of mortality. I am such a fan of Diane Athill, and I like the bit of her wisdom that you share here.
      Snowdrops are uplifting and inspiring, aren't they, so simple, sweet, and yet, as you say, tough. We do have them around here as well -- and I've got a little pot of them on the deck -- most of the bulbs seem to have come up blind this first year, but there's one blooming at the moment. . .
      p.s. thanks for your p.s. It really was. . .

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  11. These anniversaries are powerful times, and with so many for you it's no wonder that grief has crept up. It can also be a safety valve that takes you eventually, imperceptibly, to grateful memory. I have been greatly helped this dark spring by a book recommendation from an Instagram friend - The Celtic Wheel of the Year, by Tess Ward. It's subtitled Celtic and Christian prayers, and I admit I've jettisoned the prayers and have devoured hungrily the Celtic element dealing with the natural world. The cycle of death and rebirth in nature- the 'great round of the year' - includes time to grieve for what is lost as much as to look forward to new life. It seems a balance I can live with. You seem to have found some of that balance in your antidotes from the natural world and joy in your grandchildren, while also allowing yourself to look back at what was part of you.

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    1. Isn't it good when we find just the help we need in book recommendations? This one sounds both wise and inspiring. I would say there are cycles as well between times when it's safe to allow ourselves to grieve, to pause, to look backward at our losses and times when the cost of that pause might be too high, when forward momentum is the most protective, even the healthiest response.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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