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Guests wander out to my cottage garden, even in the horrible heat of summer.

The garden is showy right now, even though it claims such little space.  Hollyhocks grow next to tomatoes.  Lambs Ear competes with Black-Eyed Susans, to see who can claim more space.  Both are prolific and haven’t learned to make do with what this gardener has granted them.

It’s human nature too, to want more space than we really need.  My sister’s newly renovated home is a perfect size — 1104 square feet to be precise — where mine is around 2600.  I’m of the mind these days to downsize my house and up-size my garden space.

Two of my three bedrooms are rarely used.  Bryan borrowed “his” for about a month after graduation and I expect, upon his return from southeast Asia, Kyle will once again use his.  But these borrowings will be nothing more than brief interludes.  Soon, Kyle will claim his own space and my husband and I will become true empty-nesters.

Today my husband turns 55 with me following suit in October.  When I look at my husband, I don’t really see a man growing old;  instead, I see my husband, no worse for the wear and tear of 55 years of living and the raising of four children.  I hope he can say the same about me.

But my children already see me different; yesterday, during Bryan and Amy’s move, I was protected from most heavy lifting.  I guess my children regard me as fragile.  Is it because I don’t hear as well as I once did?  I confess to knees that creak as I walk down the stairs, and getting stiff when I sit too long on my sister’s floor, painting walls near baseboards.

During one of those hard-to-rise episodes of painting low to the floor, my sister shared a story of a local Shawnee woman, aged 80, who still gets on her riding lawnmower to mow her own lawn.  God willing, I pray to be like this ‘old woman” too.  I don’t want to stop living as long as I have breath in my body.  I want to be active.  I want to contribute to others welfare, to make life better for those whose paths I cross, even if it means just leaving an extra nice tip when dining out.

Soon, I will thin out my garden.  I’ll divide perennials, remove greedy hogs like that Joe Pye Weed — whatever was I thinking, to add a plant in my postage stamp garden, that is brazen enough to calls itself “WEED?”– and dig up some of those naughty Cleome that have seeded themselves throughout the garden.  I’ll pass along my thinnings to someone else to the benefit of both of our gardens.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to do the same with myself.  Maybe I can continue to pass along the best parts of myself,  so that even as I grow old, I won’t be regarded as old and useless but more like a treasured antique — worth holding on to, worth spending time with.

The roses outside are in all stages of life — some newly bloomed, others in their red prime and still others growing pink and papery dry along their edges.  But all are beautiful to my eyes.

Lord knows we can’t control how others regard us.  But we can control how we regard ourselves.  And somehow, in a hard-to-explain way, these views are inextricably linked — one feeds off another.  The state of my physical health is in part what I see and feel about myself, but is it not also, how others view and see me?  God knows I would not have rushed off to Urgent Care about my Brown Recluse Spider bite had it not been for others telling me to go…

I need to live planted in the firm of both perspectives —  mine and others who care for me —  for somewhere in the middle, truth exists.  Somewhere in the middle of that love, God exists.  And there, grounded in truth and humility, I can continue to thrive to passalong thinnings of my best self.