Often I’ll go outside and just place my hands on the soil, even if there’s no work to do on it. When I am filled with worries, I do that and I can feel the energy of the mountains and of the trees.”
― Andy Couturier, A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance
I have often thought about writing about the gardens we have here and so I may give it a whirl this winter. After all, it may inspire me, when confined, to think about why we tolerate the confinement. It is still fall and we are now in the middle of our second snowstorm.
The backstory on this garden: when I first moved here, I said, “New husband, I need a garden of my own.”
“Ok, how about that one.” He pointed to a row of flowers, three tiers of unorganized, tall flowers that abutted the clothesline. The clothesline stretched from this area to the barn and faithfully, Barbara (see December 7 post) put her laundry up to dry several days a week.
I plotted my garden out and I bought lots of plants…as I recall, one season it looked really good, but then…reality hit. Reality being work: the work I attended to every week, my job; the housework and grocery shopping on weekends; and the world of weeding. It felt too big and so, I believe eyeing its potential and my subsequent abandonment during a few summers, the new husband, who was not so new and had summers off, said: “I know it is a lot, if you don’t mind, I can take it over.”
In came the variation of plants, the bench, a little pond, yellow tulips, and a Japanese Maple, not all at once, of course. This picture is pretty close to how it looks today: fourteen years later. It is lovely. I can’t begin to name all the plants. But for me, it is where I learned how wonderful it is to dig in the dirt on a rainy misty day and see fushia colored flowers and my beloved peonies bloom.
Sadly, Barbara died shortly after this garden was finished. The garden then looked more like a template of things to come. The last place I saw Barbara was on the bench pictured above. She then went in to watch the US Open. That night, a short two days before she died, she called a friend and expressed a tremendous sense of peace sitting with my husband and I that day.
As if everyone she loved was right there with her.
This is the central garden and I will probably revisit it in these posts..
In 2006, I found this letter in our barn. Written on a sad day in
American history, we sure could use some of its optimism
and lack of cynicism, today: December 7, 2014!
addressed to Hib, who was my lovely friend
Barbara Ballou Schwarz from her brother Richard Ballou:
Dec 7, 1941
Thanks for your letter. Things have dwindled into a new perspective these days now that we are at war. Elizabeth and I have been glued to the radio most of the afternoon and this evening. It does not surprise me that Japan had been doing such a job of double dealing in the past three weeks; I am surprised that we were not more ready that the success of the Jap attacks on Hawaii.
Remember Miss Collins out there, and our discussion of the possibility of your going there. In this connection remember my suggestion that you consider the prospect of doing some work in Europe after the war.
Recently two things have passed by us here which I pass on for what they are worth. Dr. Royon (female), psychiatrist whose husband is second in command, Geneva Int. Red Cross, and who is high up in the Save the Children Federation told a Smith audience that there is a tragic shortage of workers in child welfare fields, a lack which will be acute after the war.
Second, Mary Wagner is closely affiliated with an organization which is working up a course for “volunteer” workers for here and abroad. If I were you, I’d (1) keep my French and German brushed up in any way I could – reading books, and speaking with people who’d be willing to help;
(2) I’d contact Mary asking for information and to be kept posted, and expressing your interest in the work; at the same time, I’d get in touch with the Save the Children Federation in New York – a Mrs. Sater in Summit, NJ seems to know a lot about the thing. The purpose being to get yourself in contact with an organization which may one day be in a strategic position.
They are going to need in addition to doctors, nurses, social workers, literally thousands of child-workers who have had training in education and psychology and some substantial experience (your Hearld Trib and teaching experience eminently fit), and who have youth, health, imagination, and a world point of view.
It is my humble opinion that when the mess is over – two to three year hence or more – you will be in a key position to do some brilliant work, work that will challenge your imagination, and put you in a position to do good on a scale none for you family can now imagine. The experience, looking at it selfishly, will open horizons undreamed of. Think it for over…
For myself, I am not wholly optimistic these days. The three months beginning with Nov. 1 and going through January ’42 are marking I thinking the critical phase of the struggle. The fight over labor, and the attitude of the ABA, the NAM, and the Tory representation in the English gov’t, the reports which are leaking out about huge profits and fees being given to the dollar a year men, etc. are ever present reminders that our unity over fighting Hitler has weak seams.
If we don’t get out of this struggle an active democratic socialism – with private profits cut down immeasurably, and with control over planning and some of the key industries taken out of the hands of the well-meaning but limited imagination businessmen, we’ll only half win the war, fumble the armistice, and lose the peace. There are hard days ahead, and I shall e speaking more and more of socialism without using the term because it has lost its meaning.
Somehow or other I can’t help being lad that the suspense is over, that we have our chance ahead still; I am sorry we are not better prepared to meet the test, but is is now time to go to work. i think we’ll be found ready.
Barbara, the other day, when i was debating Orton (and in technical debating terms he beat me, although I honestly can’t say that because he didn’t meet my definition of the issues), he accused me of being young and unduly optimistic. Well we are, kid, and that is an asset.
Let’s see where we can pull our oar, not strike the colors of our ideals, and when the die is cast, let’s work patiently, think as clearly as we can, be charitable and cautious in impugning the motives of others, and when the showdown comes, strike hard.
As I thought when I was 21, so I think now that I am 31, it is good to be alive.
Bobby and Susan are well, happy, and looking ahead. i wish we had twins twice. Aaron: son Jonathan Dec. 1; MacDowell daughter recently; Jack Keffe, a son Richard; Steve Bayne a fourth, and he is now chaplain at Columbia. Lots of love. See you at Xmas, and some day in NY. Cheerio.
My father turned 12 on this day in 1941, he would have been 85 today, sadly I never asked him where he was or how Pearl Harbor affected him and he died in 2005.
Barbara Ballou Schwartz went on to serve in the American Red Cross in France and was present for soldiers at the end of the war when she told me they ate with wild abandon.I have passed the original and copies of this and other letters to her daughter and granddaughter.
Today at apx 11am, my cat Honey Bunny was ferried by our lovely vet, her assistant, my husband, and myself, to another plane. She was 20 years and 7 months old. She was a soft, beautiful bundle of love. All day I have been waiting for her to push the door open, hop up onthe bed, or sip her water. I’ve cried a stream down to the garden where we buried her. I wish our journey together hadn’t flown so fast, but she opened my heart in many ways and so I am grateful!