Friday, October 28, 2011

And Now a Few Words in Honour of Vegetables

Grief is like a stitch in your side. You can keep going but you are not pain free. When my brother in law died suddenly this past spring, I got back to the US and managed to speak at his graveside and hopefully provided some comfort for my sister and his mother and family and friends. I kept going but nothing felt right.

As with a stitch, the first pain free breath is a special joy, even if a residual pain lingers. And so it was yesterday afternoon as I looked at the ravaged remnants of my pea crop--wind blasted, frost tinged, black spots of damp among the full pods of peas and, ironically, one hopeful blossom on the end of a wind-wracked stem doubled back on itself. Without thinking about it, I laughed to think what Harold would say about my pitiful crop as I managed to salvage a dozen peas. One of his long suits was his winning way with vegetables. He loved growing them and canning and cooking them. In an earlier blog post I wrote a well-earned love song to the green beans from their garden that my sister spent a fortune to mail to my homesick self.

It took some time to get to know Harold. At first he was welcomed into our family on the strength of his obvious affection for our sister. And that could have been enough, but he gradually revealed more of himself. He was deeply funny. Not the outrageous physical comedy that I'm sure he could do as well, but the irresistible laugh built on his canny, ironic way of looking at the world.

Despite not having had an easy life, he was generous with his talents and whatever he had to offer from hospitality and home grown peaches to the use of his vehicles, and, most importantly, his ability to fix things. I hope he realized how precious his ability to understand the working bits of the world was when he landed in a family more noted for its intellectual than its mechanical abilities. I hope he felt cherished.

He would never have come to Scotland, so he would never have seen my poor excuse for vegetables. And as a boy from Tennessee, he would never ever have understood the climate up here, but the reason for recalling him over the pea patch is not just his own talent with vegetables but for the trait he might have been best noted for--his straight talking. Because he loved me he would have made an apt remark, shaken his head in mock disbelief, and then rolled up his sleeves and helped me tear out the plants. And because I loved him, I'll think of him often, especially in the veg patch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Purple Door

I have been avoiding it. Talking about the loss of two friends within a fortnight of each other compounded by the still too recent sudden death of my brother in law and another friend terminally ill. I have nibbled around the edges of it by talking to friends in the kind of code one can use with friends. I have had wine and dervish dancing which is my way of burning off the excess energy that grief brings. I have toasted absent friends with a good dram.
When I found carefully folded into an inner pocket of my camera case the poem I read at my brother in law's funeral: "Because I could not stop for Death,/He kindly stopped for me" there was no room left for equivocating or stalling.
Even so, it has been more than a week since I wrote those words above. My "Tuesday friends" chided me for my absence from my blog. And there amid the laughter and questions about bulbs and cotton thread and teasing a woman who has the rare and precious gift of a new relationship--and some shortbread and a little knitting--I was able to talk a bit more easily. As an extrovert, things aren't quite real or resolved until I have talked them into my life. As I get older the words more often stick. The warmth of my friends helped the knot ease a bit.
And that brings me to Kris's purple door. I am fond of purple, so when Kris spoke about wanting a purple door I could not understand her reluctance, but we all need to strike that impossible balance between our inner selves and the demands of the social world. We need to be different while not looking too different.
These veronica from my garden are the closest I could get to the deep rich purple of the woodland violets of Indiana woodlands that Kris's door always fondly brought back to mind. The last time I saw Kris, knowing it would be the last time I would see her, my sister and I walked with her as she described the flowers on the wooded hill behind her house. My sister, still raw with grief over the sudden loss of her husband, and I, torn between my new home and my old, distilled those precious few moments with Kris.
I am recreating a bit of that Hoosier woodland garden here. Not all of the plants can thrive here, but, like me, some flowers are adaptable and will bloom where planted.
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