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.