Friday, January 8, 2010

A summer story for all of you freezing friends!

OK, OK! I get it. I was cruel bringing up sunshine and oranges and flowers. So I am going to do a two-fer today!

This is a story I wrote several years ago but since you all seem to be freezing I’ll try and warm you up a little bit, OK?

Yesterday my husband and I had a few errands to do in downtown Phoenix. Afterwards we went driving around some of the historic neighborhoods and decided to visit a nursery that we had received a gift certificate from. A lot of wrong turns and rambling around and we eventually stumbled across the little nursery tucked into the middle of high rises, vacant lots, boarded-up houses and parking garages.

The nursery gift shop and office was inside a small, 1910 bungalow and surrounded by wild, out of control greenery. The grounds around the bungalow were a potpourri of mismatched pottery, pots, broken tools and overgrown plantings with hoses in bright blue and neon green snaking through the profusion of leaves and flowers. Cement blocks held abundant pomegranate bushes next to flats of purple salvia, while lime green sweet potato vines ran rampant from black plastic pots. We wandered around for a bit talking of this plant and that. Trying vainly to think of places where we could integrate another 100 or so plants into our yard.

The proprietor wandered out after a while. This little garden creature was probably about five feet tall and tipped the scale (while holding a big potted plant) at 95 pounds. Her feet were tiny and bare and very, very dirty. Her crocheted garden hat was grimy and worn low shading a wrinkled and wizened nut brown face. “Oh,” she said, “I see you looking at my salvias. I am addicted to salvias!”

And then she launched into a 15 minute recital of why she loves them, why they are wonderful and why I needed to buy one of each variety. I told her we were going to remodel our backyard in the fall and I would come back and let her help me create a salvia planting and she clapped her hands in delight like a small child promised her favorite flavor of ice cream.

We sat on the cement steps by her porch and talked about gardens we have loved. I told her the thing I missed most was lilacs. She popped up from the steps and literally danced into the little house and came back with a picture of a Persian lilac bush. She told me I could grow them in Arizona and, in fact, had 5 in her own backyard. The fragrance was the same but there were a few special things the bushed needed to survive our summers. But, she promised, they would grow and thrive in our extreme summer conditions.

After her little speech she looked at me, carefully. She looked over at our shiny, car parked at the curb. She looked at my tennis shoes. I think she even noticed my short fingernails with a little bit of garden dirt under them. She reminded me of a little, inquisitive wrinkled bird tipping her head this way and that in studious concentration.

Then she said, “I think you might be the kind of person who could love a lilac bush.” I replied that I thought it would be difficult to find someone who didn't love lilacs.

“Oh.” she said, “you would be surprised. Lilacs have their down time, like everything in nature. People hate down time. They want their flowers to always be blooming, to never have dead leaves or bare branches. They want everything to be pretty and perfect and beautiful all the time - but it's not. If you can stand these Persian lilacs looking brown and dreary for several months they will reward you with flowers and fragrance. The flowers will only bloom for several weeks, but oh, it is heaven when they blossom.”

On the way home in the car I was uncharacteristically silent, looking out the window and thinking about her words. I thought how true they were - we all try to be perfect all the time. We apologize when our hair is not right, when our clothes are not right, when our house is not perfect.

But I think I am going to try living my life more like the lilacs - radiant, happy and simple, soaking up the sun and the sky and the clouds and the birds and going through the plain, bare and sad times with as much grace and peace as I can gather into my soul.

And on those glorious days that are perfect, the days when my granddaughters rest their petal soft cheeks on mine, the days when my husband and I sit doing nothing together but enjoying being together, the days when my hair is shiny and perfect and the breakfast toast and jam is especially wonderful- I am going to rejoice with my whole being.



Unknown said...

Oh I love this post! It's bang on for me haircut means a really, really bad hair day. C'est la vie!! ; )

Be well!


Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Oh Jenny sweetie...
I so love this post. What a beautiful story, and I know where the history houses are, I would love to visit this nursery.

I have to have some persian lilacs, and I am going to spend some time reading about them. I have longed for a lilac bush since we moved to Phoenix. I would so love to meet this little lady.

I would love to meet for lunch one day with you too. I am off every other Friday and every weekend. Maybe one of these days we can meet for lunch and a day of shopping thrifting would be fun.
Let me know.

Love ya sweetie. Talk to you soon. Country hugs adn much love, Sherry

Unknown said...

you need to write a book. your words are beautiful and eloquent.

Together We Save said...

Wonderful story... I loved this post, you wrote it so well I felt like I was right there with you.

Unknown said...

OK OK I get it too!
I feel a lot warmer already... LOL

I LOVE MY LILAC BUSHES(even when they're brown)
I LOVE MY GRANDKIDS LITTLE CHEEKS (even if they have that jelly smeared all over them)
I LOVE MY HUBBY (doing nothing???)
And what was that about the hair?

Warmest Wishes
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Tolentreasures said...

How true, what wisdom! So many blessings in life to worry about the brown and bare times.


jules said...

I miss summer.........

Kim said...

Oh Jenny - thank you for the extra post about spring. You have a magical gift of words- I find myself wanting to come to Arizona now to eat your neighbors oranges and meet this wonderful nursery owner. What a nice bright light you have brought to my day ♥

Bumpkin on a Swing said...

Fab writing dahling. Just Fab!
I could close my eyes and smell and see every bloom!
All my tropicals are locked up tight in the greenhouse, and they are just blooming away thinking it's spring. I sneak out there with my morning coffee, and I too pretend it's spring!
So glad I found you!
The Bumpkin
aka Lisa

Cassie said...

Your writing is just beautiful...great story! When are you going to write a book? I'll bet you've got lots to say!

MrsJenB said...

What a lovely and deeply truthful story. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful writing with us.

Wanda..... said...

Very nice, warm story Jenny...Even though it's cold(10degrees) and snowing(6inches), I don't mind...but come March I will be very ready for spring!

Allie said...

I love being your cousin ...

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Bravo, Jenny! This is a brilliant post!


Sheila :-)

Jean Tuthill said...

I loved your story, and I want to go there and visit! I am a gardener so this kept my eyes glued to the screen. I envisioned myself in the warmth of Arizona and being there in the beautiful nursery. Thanks, I needed that!

SquirrelQueen said...

What a wonderful story, the little garden lady is someone I would love to meet. My backyard is lined with lilac bushes, when they bloom it is heavenly. The scent fills the yard.

Thank you for the reminder of spring.


Sharon said...

"I think you are the type of person who would love a lilac" - what a beautiful compliment! And so true that we focus too much on the bloom, that we forget the pruning that got it there!

Busy Bee Suz said...

I LOVE this are a wise woman full of deep insight. And also you are knee slapping funny...I love both sides.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I loved this Jenny! So beautifully expressed and so vivid I felt like I was with you that day.

It's so true we can put such high expectations on ourselves, our surroundings, and how we want our lives to be, that we miss the true joys of life..the little things that matter most in each and every day.

I always try the trick to think on those things when I find myself feeling down or grouchy or upset. It makes me calm and feel grateful. Sometimes we have to search hard and look past the dead and wilted leaves but the joy is there.

Wishing you lilacs always!

Unknown said...

beautiful, beautiful story and I smiled as I read laughs this time.....I love this...

Vicki/Jake said...

Awww Jenny, another post of your wonderful wisdom. I have grand kids staying but taking time to peek here. I need to catch up but will have to wait till Sunday evening. I adore Lilacs and hope you try them out... If anyone could make them grow and bloom, it's you... <3

Word Designer said...

What a lovely way to tie in your message. Very sweet.

Word Designer

laterg8r said...

too true - it's too much work to be perfect :D

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

I do believe you're a philosopher, from centuries past, reincarnated.

When I was little in upstate NY, we had lilacs in three colors and they were my favorites. I would pick them in the early morning and bring them to my teachers at school. (Brown-noser? psssh!)

You've reminded me of an analogy/metaphor I have for forsythia. We can learn so much from nature.

Thanks for this, JM!

Kelly@TearingUpHouses said...

great story!


p.s. i love the music on your blog.

Auntie Cake said...

Such a sweet post. I adore lilac time, I go with the flowers, from northern MN to southern MN, gathering bouquets during the lilac season, and I can get about 3 weeks of lilacs, if I am lucky. I love my house just overflowing with their sweet fragrance. Your post will make me appreciate them even more!

Terri Steffes said...

Lilacs are my favorite flower.

Sigh... I want a lilac bush.