Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Not Pretty

Garden reconstruction sure ain't a pretty sight, is it?

 Plants dug out and sitting around waiting for new homes, rocks on the move, tools everywhere.  But change is necessary and can be good.  (That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.)  We're digging and moving and I was going to post a bunch of pictures of the process, but then Geraldine came to mind.
For several years, Geraldine was an annual garden visitor who would drop in unannounced to see the gardens. She lived about three miles from us in town and was in her late 80's when I first met her, though like my mother, she looked much younger.   She had that 'Attitude of Gratitude' about her, remember everyone-- Attitude is Everything.

We had hosted a garden walk for the local  nursing home some five or six (maybe seven) years ago and had the place all spruced up for the occasion at the time.  First impressions mean a lot (that's what I tell my sons all the time).  Apparently, we made a good first impression on Geraldine, because after that first visit she made it her Mission to bring as many of her friends, family and acquaintances with her to see the gardens as she could several times a year.  She was the chauffeur and  would bring a carload of people out, turn them loose and then remain in her car in the shade.  She was 90-something by this time and was tired of walking.   Besides, she'd already seen the flowers four or five times in any given year.

I'd always go and chat with her, leaning against her car door while her entourage toured the gardens with Carl or Joel as guides.  If one of the folks would stray back to the car while we were visiting, Geraldine would put a hand on my arm to silence me gently.  Then she would say, "Dorothy, did you see the lilies in that back garden?  Aren't they gorgeous?  Oh, you didn't?  Well, just follow that path over there and turn left, you really mustn't miss them."

Dorothy (who probably wasn't all that into flowers) gazed wistfully at the waiting car and shrugged as she slowly made her way back to the Lily Trail.  No entrance to the bus until you've seen it All.  That was Geraldine's motto.  I often wondered if there was a pop quiz on the way home. 

We'd be out in the garden working only to look up and find three or four people staring at us.  Don't get me wrong, Geraldine asked me repeatedly if it was OK to bring people out here and I gave her complete permission; I could never have asked for a more staunch garden admirer and supporter.  She made me feel as if I was doing something Important and Useful instead of doing something Insane & Useless as a few other people like to point out. (We have had people question our sanity when it comes to the rocks.  The main question is a short one, "Why?") 

There was one time I disappointed Geraldine, though.  And I don't mean just a little.  I disappointed her big time.  And it was this time of year, early May.  We were in the middle of tearing up or putting in something, I don't remember what, and the place was a wreck, just like it is now.  Luckily, Geraldine came out alone that day.

I met her as she was making her way carefully through the tractors and trailers and rock equipment.  Her first words to me that year were, "What happened?!  It's not Pretty!!"

I felt so ashamed,  poor Geraldine was truly bewildered and very upset.  WHAT had we done to her garden?  I assured her the prettiness would reappear just as soon as possible and not to worry.  She looked at me closely to see if I was pulling her leg and asked for a time frame.  I said, "Well, if you can give us until July, then the annuals will be blooming and things should be straightened out around here."

"That long?"  She gazed about her in complete dismay.  "Well, I guess I'll just have to wait, then," she sighed.  She patted me on my arm and dejectedly made her way back to her car.  I thought that was the last time I'd ever see Geraldine.

But I was wrong.  One afternoon in July I was out working in the flowers when I looked up and there she was, standing in the back yard, looking around intently.  As I was approaching her to say hello, she raised her hand to stop me.

"Hello, Karen, now you just stay there, I don't want to interrupt your work.   I'll be right back," and she hurried back to the driveway and her carload of tourists.  I followed along anyway, and heard her excited exclamation:

"It's OK everyone, you can get out now.   I checked.  It's Pretty again!"

Oh, Geraldine, I'm waiting for that day, too.  

Sadly, I learned Geraldine passed away last April at the age of 94.  When July rolled around and we hadn't seen her, I found out why.  I would have loved to pay my respects.  She was a wonderful lady, and I miss her very, very much. 


MorningGlory said...

I'm sure that Geraldine is still watching the 'remodeling' with keen interest. This was a lovely story about someone who clearly touched your life in a permanent and positive way.

Lona said...

LOL! What a wonderful story. I wonder if she charged them admission to her garden ? LOL! She sounds like a great lady.

FlowerLady said...

What a sweet story about a devoted follower and lover of your beautiful gardens.

Hang in there Karen ~ It will all be pretty once again. You just have to go through some heavy labor with sweating and grunting involved.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Carolyn ♥ said...

Love your dear story, Karen. Thanks so much for sharing!

Bonnie said...

What a beautiful story. I think you should submit it to a magazine to share with everyone. I would love to have a Geraldine stop by my gardens.

Alison said...

What a great story! I'm so glad you have had someone who loved your garden so much. It helps, when you feel like you are not doing something important, to remember her. There is nothing insane and useless about adding some beauty to the world.

Zoey said...

What a great story. How wonderful to have someone who appreciated all of your efforts like she did. She must have been a great incentive to keep up all the hard work. Now she is gone (may she rest in peace),and you have all of us to admire your efforts!

I am sure your garden will pretty way before July!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, knowing you and Carl it will be pretty again soon.


Missy said...

Geraldine sounds like she was quite a lady. I wonder how many of her groups were return visitors as well. I bet quite a few.

I love your term Attitude of Gratitude. We all need a bit more of that.

Tufa Girl said...

What a dear lady. Don't you just love the ones that tell it like it is? I am certain she will be visiting in her own way some time in July just to make certain it's Pretty again.

Anonymous said...

This was a cute story Karen. What a nice lady. She brought tourists, funny.

Randy Emmitt said...

What a touching story! Geraldine must have been one sweet visitor to the garden.

Rosemary said...

As usual love your story... What delightful person Geraldine must have been....... hopefully we can both be that positive at 90.

HolleyGarden said...

What a wonderful story! I'm certain you helped her look forward to the future, and to the flowers that would be in bloom when she visited. A garden lover for sure. And I bet Dorothy is glad she got to see the Lilies - and that she remembers Geraldine whenever she sees them.

Sandy said...

It will indeed be pretty again with your determination! I need to go back and re read your story.. what happened to Geraldine? That's what happens when I'm in a hurry!
Enjoy the transformation without too much achy pain.. it's a lot of work!
I was building a teeny (compared to your rocks) brick wall today and I'm pooped!