It feels odd to be out of the garden today — and for rain to be there in my stead. Gentle. And steady — as if we weren’t deep in the midst of a year-long drought. The very one – if weather fortune-teller predictions come true — that will continue through winter.
I brought the key limes in last night for the second time this season. Temperatures fell below forty-eight degrees — and what is mild conditions for most is hostile to these thin-skinned trees; no use telling them tonight’s forecast is mid-thirties since forty-eight or thirty-eight spells the same dire end — and what are a few degrees anyway, since they’ve been saved from Jack’s frosty fingers of death. The sad truth is that they will never outgrow their need for saving. That come cold weather, they will always need a helping hand to stay alive. No matter how big they get.
Being in retreat and offering retreat to frigid lime trees from the very place that has been my retreat seems — in the spirit of the day — odd. Because, for better or worse the garden has been my private escape-hatch when too much about everyday life has felt hostile; family feuds here and there, that few (if any) could explain to outsiders. Even those mired in the moment and history of the relationship find it a mystery.
On one side of the tree I’ve observed hot anger take flight in hateful words launched as deadly cruise missiles — while on the other I’ve observed the cutting of life ties from a surreal silence, the barest of words offered between two at odds. Was the first rooted in jealousy over the attention of a dying loved one, as some have said? And can it be the second began in forgotten cupcakes for a birthday party? Oh, who but God knows? All I know, is that after months of hurt, it’s probably good that some things remain a mystery. Because what if it was really about forgotten cupcakes?
All this brings to mind a Robert Frost poem I first ran across in college that I didn’t then understand.
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Does anyone need to hear that I “get” the poem very well these days?
And does anyone find irony in that this truth was written by a poet named “frost.”
Of course, life is full of ironies. Life is full of finding truth in odd places — like retreating from a retreat to stay alive, as in the case of my too-big-for-their-pots lime trees. And two, that a family feud is never just about two at odds, because it ripples out like a whirlpool to catch those beyond its edge in its spiral, so that everyone at family gatherings walks on egg shells, doing their darned best to pretend all is well when it’s not. And three, that it’s not just lime trees that are too thin-skinned and in need of saving from the hostile conditions they find themselves in. And that few, if any, choose to jump into the midst of their squabble — perhaps out of good intentions, they see it as none of their business — yet, why is it, that even now, I hear these words of Jesus’ that beg otherwise: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Did I just play the Jesus card? Well, I suppose those Southern Baptist roots are still down there under the soil somewhere. But if my words feel blunt, they hold no anger. If anything, I’m only weary. And oddly enough I’m grateful too — for the silver lining that’s come with this round of rain clouds — both the life lessons learned and the joy experienced in watching the beauty of the garden unearth from hard clay.
Sometimes I wonder if the size of my garden grew in proportion to the size of my sorrow. Had my year been happier, would my garden have been smaller? What I know for sure is that the garden has had her way of reducing me to size: after a day of gardening I know the world doesn’t revolve around me and petty arguments and that some day, we’ll both be reduced to a speck of dirt.
In spite of disrupting my too-much-to-get-done tight garden schedule, today’s rain — along with this outpouring — is a welcomed relief. I pray it’s not temporary.
My goodness – such a rich post suggests a hundred responses. But, since I don’t have time for a book and you shouldn’t be forced to read one, just a few slightly disconnected thoughts…
(1) Peacemaking isn’t the same as “fixing things”. It’s taken me a lifetime to learn this.
(2) Sometimes, letting someone stew in their own juice for a while means they end up much more tender, and tastier, too!
(3) Your weather headed our way overnight. We’ll have 40s for a couple of nights, too. I was smart enough to move the Cape Honeysuckles out of the breezeway before I went to bed. Otherwise, they would have been beaten to death by the front. We’re not far from the time when I’ll be hauling tropicals around, too.
(4) Oh, those silences. That was Mom’s weapon of choice. I always knew when she was angry – most of the time, I never knew what it was about.
(5) My rain envy is almost boundless. I want a rainy day or two so badly I can’t stand it. If it’s pouring down rain, there’s no way I can work – otherwise, there’s always an edge of guilt. Even on a beautiful weekend day, it’s hard not to think, “I should be working”.
(6) Cupcakes? CUPCAKES? Well, maybe. If they were really good cupcakes! 😉
Great to see your post. And by the way, that Frost poem is one of my favorites. I’ve noticed that the longer I live, the more I like Frost’s work. It’s real.
And always great to see your comments.
In all the ways that truly matter, this post was the easiest I’ve written in months. I didn’t sit down to write about it, but it just poured out. And my — how good it feels to “come clean” with life. With each confession comes hope for a fresh start — and sometimes it feels good just to wave the white flag and say, “Well, sorry God and world for mucking up life again.”
Of course. you’re right about peace-making — when I think of making peace, I think of the early seventies “Paris Peace Talks.” Differences never magically disappear like squiggles on an upside and shaken around Etch-A-Sketch — but understanding and appreciating one another’s point of view somehow makes lines of division grow fainter. Peace and talking and listening go hand-in-hand. And some times — though not always — one willing to serve as a bridge to peace-making.
Keeping hurts bottled up inside rather than talking them out — what my sister’ fondly refers to the “Pappas Pout”– is something I fight against myself. I like to think I’m better than I once was — but I still have those days when all I can do is put myself to bed and hope for a better tomorrow. Unloving acts from those who love me most — always unintentional — cuts my too-thin skin straight to the heart.
Well I guess it’s about time to go muck around in the muddy garden for my daily dose of therapy. Like you only the rain keeps me from working outside. And soon — all too soon — weather will keep me indoors. Like my poor think-skinned limes — our 10-day-forecast has me thinking they may be in for the season — would you believe they are already dropping their leaves in their own form of pout?
Here’s to a rainy day in Houston! Cheers.