Monday, August 18, 2008

The Yard

My father planted dahlias every year. Which is to say he planted the bulbs in late Spring and dug them up in late Fall. They wintered in a paper bag down the cellar, where it was sufficiently cool for their liking but not enough to freeze them dead. Every so often they needed a little water sprinkled on them, until it was late Spring and the process began again.
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Just before my father died, he asked me to take care of his dahlias. At the time they were in their paper bags, tucked away in my father's "room", an unheated cement cellar where he displayed on every wall all the artwork my brother and I had ever done, plus one framed love poem he wrote to my mother when he was stationed in Japan during World War II.
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I put some effort into caring for my father's dahlias, but not enough. They shriveled first, and then they died. I've asked for forgiveness, and I'm pretty sure I've been excused for my pre-occupation with other matters. Besides, I wasn't much of a gardener at the time. I was sorry that they died, but sorry only gets you so far. They died anyway.
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This Spring I bought four dahlia bulbs and planted them in my garden. The result has been beautiful. These are not flowers that need company. One single dahlia is knock-down gorgeous.
all by itself.
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If you've noticed that these flowers do not look like they are blooming in the garden, it's because they've been cut and placed in our little water garden just outside the kitchen door.
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The whole thing feels calm and peaceful. And I imagine my Father looking down with approval.
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JB and I have not tended to the yard and garden this summer. We spent four or five weekends and one long week in Provincetown and in the meantime the yard's pregnant weeds definitely gave birth. We are just pulling ourselves out.
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Still, we've somehow managed to create a sweet place in the back yard, including JB's Magic Cottage. She just steps outside the back door and creates art.
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And for the first time this summer we've had friends over for dinner: shrimp, scallops, chicken and roasted vegetables all cooked on the grill, and tomatoes and basil from my garden off the driveway.
I haven't found my way to the hammock yet, but when I look up and see one of the four or five majestic trees that surround our house, the first thing I feel is appreciation. Then I think of my friend Ces, often wishing she could see this or that tree for herself.
And whenever I walk around my yard, and marvel at the flowers and shrubs and flowering trees JB and have planted in the three seasons we've been here, I think of my Dad. Even though I killed his dahlias, I'm pretty sure he's helping me out anyway.

10 comments:

  1. wishing you a good end to summer, and wishing my friend anon will soon return to her australian winter.

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  2. wow... your yard is a piece of heaven... really enjoyed watching it...
    and reading the story of your father's dahlias was a spiritual experience...
    you didn't kill them... you just gained consciousness about a 'love'... and sure your father is happy his dahlias were sacrificed for this sacred reason...
    :)
    the second picture is breathtaking... i'd love to save it on my desktop if you don't mind... to look at it and remember this marvelous post...
    love and blessings

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  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog - and what a gorgeous post. I was never a keen gardener when my mother (a keen gardener all her life) was alive, but now every time I yank out weeds or look after my dahlias, I smile at the thought of her watching me and saying "I told you you'd come round in the end!"

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  4. Oh kj the nostalgia . .my Grandad used to grow dahlias in his greenhouse in England. They're not well known here but such pretty things. I'm now officially over winter in the antipodes and waiting for the warmth and colour of spring. Your umbrella reminded me that we'll soon be hunkering beneath the same structure to avoid the harsh sunlight. If it's any consolation, I have the same issue with Roses planted after my mum died . .they thrive despite the lack of attention but look a bit weedy (so much for having a horticulturalist for a son!)

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  5. I like how the shadows cast patterns on the magic cottage. The towering trees behind the magic cottage KJ are magnificent living things. An Autumn foliage post of the same yard is in order. You can touch anything/anyone and they will glow.

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  6. ruby, thanks, how are you doing?!

    hb, your words are soothing. i would be honored for you to enjoy any picture from my blog anytime.

    jeanne, ha! i think my father is saying that too! thank you for visiting my blog. i am excited to have found yours. yum!!

    baino, your spring begins and my summer ends. fortunately i love new england falls but i have no enthusiasm for snow and winter. i don't know about roses either.

    dearest ces, thank you. there will be autumn photos for you.

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  7. You two have created such a warm, inviting, and peaceful enclave at #9 -- it's one of my favorite places to be. Your dahlias are gorgeous! My dad loves black-eyed susans and whenever I see them, I think of him. He has a green thumb ... I do not. :)

    I miss Anon!! :**( sniff sniff ...

    We're off to the beach tomorrow!!

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  8. Dahlias are indeed very pretty flowers. We have this little town 10 km from where I live that is known as the Dahlia Town. Every summer they hold a 3 day festival with nothing else but Dahlias on display.

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  9. oh, I'm pretty sure he is....
    Beautiful post KJ....

    And there,
    in your little backyard,
    Love grows....

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