For the Petal Pushers Garden Club of Kalamazoo
In the autumn, a mother removed dead leaves from geraniums and hung them upside-down in the cellar. Winter skeletons. A child slipped down the stairs to the dimly-lit room to wait for the green sticks to become leaves. Journeys through darkness. Decades later, a neighbor’s pile of deadheaded geraniums. Can she take them? the daughter asks. Hooks hung on basement walls. In late spring, two neighbors walk through the lime green of their gardens. On their porches, pots of crimson red blossoms.
add compost to the soil
use care to not overwater
she misses her mother
The first Monday of the month the gardeners knock on the door of the memory care facility, a twenty-year-ritual halted for three by the pandemic. The aroma of fresh-cut flowers announces the women’s arrival. Laughter and chatter echo down hallways as they gather around tables typically used for meals. On the smooth veneer surfaces, they place blossoms and boughs watered with the sweat of experience, fertilized with the wisdom of prior generations. Included are buckets from a local grocer. “Flowers faded in the eyes of discerning shoppers,” he says, “but still plenty of life remaining.”
scent of fresh-cut Fraser firs
a face softens
Timidly, residents crack the doors to their rooms, peer through the sliver of light to eye the colorful chaos splayed across the scripted inner world of their lives. Slowly, they shuffle to the tables and finger the flowers.
morning’s frost gone
red berries among glossy leaves
she remembers robins
The face of the recreational therapist beams at this return to normalcy as she walks around the tables, listening to voices rarely heard. “Can I give this to my daughter?” “Yes.” “Can I take this to my room?” “Yes.” Perhaps the flowers will usher afternoon’s sun into the sundowning shadows of evening.
snow swirls in billowing winds
a voice whispers “rose”
This month, I, too, am at the table. I remember my grandmother’s roses climbing a trellis outside her bedroom window, soft pink petals peering at me as I sat at the foot of her bed. A widow for most her adult life, she raised seven children alone. I hear her voice, instructing her grandchildren on how to pick beans from the rows adjacent the chicken coop. I see her boney fingers filtering the earth, crumbling the red clay of Oklahoma so her plants would thrive.
we called her “mom”
she asked us to gather every June
plates of fresh vegetables
On my drive home from the facility, I stop to meet the local grocer and purchase two brightly-colored bouquets. One is for my mother. The other is for my husband—the gardener I unknowingly married; the one who plants tomatoes, cucumbers, and zinnias in the community garden; the man tending hyacinths and amaryllis in the room in which we have coffee every winter morning.
From briefcase to pen, paper and camera, one woman's journey to influence
how we care for the environment, our seniors, each other.
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Tiny Treasures, a collection of wildflower photographs and poetic prose, available by contacting me.
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