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I am always happiest when I am by the sea.  Its lure never pales.  Days stretch in and out of time.  Shells line the edge of the surf like tempting pastries in a bakery – I have collected so many over the years that now I can only afford to take away those that seem most perfect and special. 

I have walked hundreds of miles, just up and down this beach over the past 40 years.  I have grown from child, to teenager, to woman, to mother.  I have watched shooting stars fall to the water, made out in the dunes, nursed my baby at dawn, cried on my father’s shoulder – all here at this house, at this beach.  It was here that a long-ago boy first said “I love you” to me when I was 17.  I have quaked through three hurricanes here, watching the waves lick the bottom of the fishing pier 30 feet in the air.  If I were to really concentrate, really think, I would be able to remember my thoughts, be able to see them and to see myself evolve over all these years, bringing me to the person I am now.

Even though I have had bad-monkey stomach today, it has been a good day.  Finished another book – I find myself on the book-a-day pace now that the final Harry Potter is done.   We did normal life things, like getting the oil changed in the truck, refilling prescriptions, and going to the grocery store, all of which we could do in Porter’s Neck.  Dinner at E-Bros house. 

The ceaseless sound of the waves hitting the shore lulls me into a state of peace.  I feel as if I am recovering.  Yes, I shed a few tears for my failed marriage since I’ve been here, but that’s normal still.  It has been  6 months and 24 days, and I wonder when I will stop counting.

I caution myself about thinking that my new life hasn’t begun yet.  My new life has begun.  I just haven’t embraced the opportunity to shape it yet.  I’ve been taking some mental time off.  And I’ve discovered that I’m pretty happy.  Come Fall, I will get serious about writing and networking, and will even feel excited about it.  But it’s been so many years since I’ve had the summer off that I think it has been good for me to at least feel like I’ve had that break this year.

Just as the sea shapes the shore, though, I have the power to design and direct my life into the form I most wish.  The only thing that can stop me is…me.

My grandmother had an emerald green thumb.  My Mother always joked that hers was black.  The green thumb seemed to skip a generation and land on my hand.

Having a black thumb did not stop my Mother from trying.  In fact, I have very early memories of her gardening, and in springtime, it takes very little to make them all come rushing back.  Today in a coffee shop, there was a tall vase of forsythia branches behind the counter.  That was the trigger.  And so, I took a mental tour of my yard as I was growing up.  Won’t you join me?

There was a forsythia bush at the back of the yard, against the fence by the alley.  It was always the first thing to bloom come spring; that was how I knew that spring was really here. 

Next would come the tulips.  They were planted along that same fence and returned every year.  Red, red with yellow stripes, and yellow ones. 

The forsythia bush was there before my parents bought the house, but my mother planted the tulips before I was born.  Clematis vines also grew along that wall, in random shades of purple – they were some of her favorites.

On the backside of that segment of the fence was a Mimosa Tree. I loved those blossoms – nectar-sweet fragrance, and kitten-soft pink blossoms.  It stopped blooming at some point after I left home. 

None of the garden was ever tended.  After my mother ran out of time (and patience with her thumb), she allowed what was established to continue, but never added, weeded, tended, or watered.  She just let it be.  Though seed catalogs continued to come to the house for my whole life – perhaps a sign of perpetual hope.

I do remember when I was almost 3, sitting in the dirt with her and helping her plant seeds – carrots, I think it was, for I vaguely recall pulling some of them with her in the summer.

On the fence at the side yard grew white climbing roses – Iceberg Roses.  They were delicately fragrant. 

And under the kitchen window was a beautiful red rose bush.  Mother used to cut blooms for my father to take to work with him, carefully wrapping the stems in tinfoil for his walk to work.

The north and south sides of the fence were covered with honeysuckle.  Such a strange plant, it looks dead in winter, then as spring inches in, those skeleton branches turn velvet and supple, start sprouting new leaves, and finally bloom with creamy trumpet-shaped flowers. 

My thumbnails were stained yellow half the summer from breaking off the ends of the blossoms, gently pulling out the stamen and touching my tongue to the single drop of nectar that shone at the end of that strand.

Moving around to the front yard, there was a Camellia bush under the dining room window, rich with pink blooms that turned brown so quickly after they were cut.  It always struck me as the quintessential Southern plant, and I loved how tightly the camellia buds were wrapped when they emerged.

By the front door was my favorite, a gardenia bush, that did not always blossom, which made it all the more special when it did.  The dark leaves used to get small bugs on them that I would spend time delicately squishing from my perch on the stone slab along the stairline.  When I was pregnant, I used to have olfactory hallucinations, and the primary one was the smell of gardenias.

Wisteria was rampant under the study window, dripping with lavender blooms in the summer and sueded green seed pods in fall.  It expanded to fit the available space, sometimes trying to crawl into the house from under the eaves, and the bees made us run screaming past it in the late afternoons when we played out front.

Under both front windows were the dreaded juniper bushes.  Prickly and unpleasant, we kept our distance – although E-Bro did hide a six-pack of beer under one of them once as a young teenager – I think he found it again some years later.

The lower steps were lined on either side by drifts and drifts of purple and white thrift.  I loved the thrift – I used to nibble the flowers like a little goat, as they were so sweet and delicate.  These cascading flowers (not really called thrift, but that’s the only term I knew them by) were so spectacular that the newspaper once carried a picture of them.  But over time, they were consumed by ivy.

And finally, by the street, two crepe myrtle trees with flamboyant magenta flowers. 

I have omitted mentioning the pecan trees for a reason – I’ll save that for another day.  Thanks for joining me for a tour of the yard as I remember it.  I wonder what Kelsea will remember about my garden in 35 years?

July 2020


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