When the Unexpected Flowers

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Late one December evening (as I worked desperately to get the Board agenda together and out), I stopped for a moment to look at the sumptuous pages of a book on gardens recently designed by a good friend (Exploring Gardens & Green Spaces: From Connecticut to the Delaware Valley, Magda Salvesen, Norton, 2011). In its front matter was this quote from esteemed landscape designer Russell Page: “A Garden really lives only insofar as it is an expression of faith, the embodiment of hope, and a song of praise.” Startlingly those words resonated equally as a description of BES, which I thought had been “tucked in” successfully at least for the night.

The next morning (as I still struggled with the Board agenda), I heard a knock followed by the doorbell. The man at the door thrust (mindful of the Jack Russell barking vigorously at heel level) at me a large, deep red poinsettia, offset by an equally large complex swirl of a bow that sparkled with gold snowflakes. Its accompanying card read simply “Rosemary, Happy holidays, Love, Mom.”

It’s almost a decade since my mom bypassed assisted living, which – though she was able – she felt would require too much from her, to be ensconced happily and comfortably in a nursing home, where without question everything would be done for her at all moments. After that move, though she remained (and remains) quite sentient and with minimal physical pain or discomfort, she was also in a position, which she quickly grasped the advantage of, from which she never had to write anyone a birthday/Christmas/New Year card or wrap anyone a present again. And neither my brother nor I have found that easy even as we’ve remained available, assisting with all that’s been doable.

So it was grand that the very next evening my brother called, excited that he and his wife had also received a beautiful poinsettia. “Of course,” he said (certain I was behind it as for many years had been the case with cards and gifts others received from mom), “you knew all about it.” But really I knew nothing – and that felt so very, very good.

The very unexpected gift from my mother brings to mind a story recently told me by an avid gardener and BES member. One April day she had set out to plant a plot with “basic summery stuff.” Her new playful kitten, however, zipped along right behind her, joyously digging soft earth and slinging dirt and seeds. That June the garden she welcomed – while gorgeous – lacked all arrangement. Rather than the ordered circles of poppies and rows of marigolds and zinnias she had set out to achieve, her flowers had popped up quite haphazardly. What she took from that “chaos” was that we don’t always get the response we want, but the response we do get is praiseworthy.

How wise her reaction! What she learned is another unexpected gift, one that I intend to keep close this new year. And for you in 2012, I hope the coming days blossom in ways both expected and unexpected that affect you deeply as expressions of faith, embodiments of hope, and songs of praise.

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