Summer Sisters

There once were two women, through whatever twist of adversity, found themselves sitting hip to hip on someone’s deck stairs with a glass of wine in their hands.  You might think that no good can come of this but to the contrary, thirty odd years later, only good came of it.

We are the best of friends. I know this because we can talk for hours after not seeing each other for months or we can sit in silence for hours without any discomfort.  We garden.  We read.  We have progressed from Rhine wine in the box to Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio.  It took me longer to get there and she christened me the Peter Pan of wine lovers.  We have been through divorces, hers first then mine, ectopic pregnancies, the deaths of our fathers, an overbearing father in law, dogs, her children’s heartbreaks and triumphs , pounds gained and lost.  Aspirations and do-overs. 

She is the smartest woman I know.  She is a Michelle Pfeiffer to my Bette Midler.  She is mostly confident and sometimes terrified, she has a “business” voice, that I have learned to use on occasion, that will stop you as if your own mother were speaking.  She is the consummate mother to her, now grown, children and fully expects to be the cool Gramma one day.

She has helped me through the very toughest time in my life with the simple words; don’t worry Honey I got this. I was sitting alone in my home and she was four hundred miles away but with those words I knew I would live.  Later she came and scooped me up and took me to the Cape.  It was a long weekend of doing whatever I needed.  If I needed to eat, we ate.  If I needed to cry, we cried.  If I needed to walk, we walked.  We ate good food, drank wine, and we continued to return to the Cape each year for fifteen years.  Each year a different problem for one or the other of us to vent.  Each year a new adventure or not.  Each year a renewal of our friendship as Summer Sisters as she so appropriately named us.

Among  the things that I am most grateful for in my ever changing life; my Summer Sister without whom I would never have found my confidence again, would never have believed that I would come out of all the chaos, would never have ventured to the Cape and grown to love it the way I do.

Happy Birthday Kyle

$96.00 and the Kindness of Gardeners

When I moved into my condo I left behind a beautiful garden.   It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I sometimes think I mourned my garden more than I did my marriage.  I worked hard in that garden in an effort to alleviate my pain and isolation.  I left behind gallons of sweat and tears, many an aching back, buried dog bones and a therapeutic wonderland. Mostly I left behind gifts from gardeners who touched my life. 

I’ve seen it over the past year and it’s trying to live up to its surrogate gardener but it misses me.  You are never alone in a garden, there is always a conversation going on between the gardener and the plants, the soil, the weather, the tools, or God.  I had just started to convert that garden over to one that I could manage as I got older and it was becoming magnificent. 

So now, I’ve spent the last year watching a shady little patch of land behind my condo.  I watched the amount of sun, the way the sprinklers hit, the way the landscapers treated this backyard and the number of dogs that found the area “attractive”.  Finally in late September I was ready to plant.

I don’t have a lot of discretionary income so I would once again have to rely on the kindness of gardeners if I was going to begin again.  What a wonderful predicament to find yourself in.  There are no kinder people than gardeners. 

I began my venture at Willow Run.  This nursery was a second home to me not long ago but I’d been gone a year and was actually anxious about returning.  September is a gardener’s delight if you love perennials.  The plants are all half price and the clearance corner is stocked with some of the most waiflike orphans with huge potential you’ll ever see. 

I had $100.00 to spend and an L shaped area 6’ by 12’ to accommodate.  I pulled shrubs and perennials into the walkways and arranged my garden near the nursery’s parking lot.  I put plants back, I pulled more plants in, I put plants back…well you get the picture.  All the while I was adding and subtracting in my head the amount I was spending.  One of the owners watched me work but didn’t say anything until I was considering a Smoke Bush and tears came to my eyes.  He walked up beside me and just waited.  Finally I showed him my potential garden near his parking lot and said, I’ve got  $100.00 and a deeply shaded patch of land about 6’ x 12’ am I good with that?  He put his arm around me and confirmed I would be fine.  My bill came to $96.00.

My friend Muriel met me at my car when I arrived home and helped me lug my treasures to the back of the condo.  She later told me that as soon as she saw the dirt on my shirt she knew every one of those plants would be in that day.  She was right.  I dug and removed rocks, and dug some more.  I broke a shovel and nearly broke a second one.  I mulched and amended soil with bags of “good stuff” I had squirreled away in my basement storage area.  I was sweating and filthy and happy about all of it.

It had begun.  The kindness continued on my vacation to the Cape.  My dear friend Trudi sent me home with Gay Feather and Black Eyed Susie.  Then to my old garden and Mickey’s assurance that these plants were mine for the taking.  I took some of Florence’s Hosta, Jeanette’s Chameleon, Harumi’s Lady’s Mantle, Roger’s mother’s sedum.  Bits and pieces that had built my original garden would come home to a new garden, a new start.

It is now mid November and I’ve put the garden to bed.  Historically putting the garden to bed has made me very sad because I’d have no outlet for my misery.  Now putting the garden to bed is just a transition to a winter of nights by the fire, slow cooking and reading books I couldn’t get to.   More importantly, I once again have the promise of an upcoming spring filled with shoots, digging, sharing and hope.   All for $96.00 and the kindness of gardeners.dsc_2571