We all have those epiphanies that pop up unexpectedly. I had one this morning. As September winds down I watch the leaves beginning to fall. My perennials take on the exhausted look of too many hot days with little rain. This, despite the fact that I’ve managed to get myself the biggest water bill I’ve ever had in the 40+ years I’ve lived in my house, a sign of my desperate attempt to coax a few more weeks out of my flowers and shrubs. I do this not only because of the intrinsic beauty of my garden, but to ensure that I’ll continue to have all my winged guests show up to drink their nectar and enthrall me with their behavior. I’m never tired of watching them. I am never bored. I have to drag myself away from my yard to live the other parts of my life.
I fantasize about building a lap pool here. I am lucky enough to have room for one but I know that I might give in to my hermit tendencies and just stay home. I wander around from front to back and then front again, checking to make sure I catch sight of these delicate but strong fliers who are sometimes missing pieces of their wings it are otherwise bedraggled. They perform acrobatic dances on the air, some of which may be mating behavior and others which are about territoriality. I remind myself to look all this up but I’d rather stay outside and look at them.
Today I realized I am the same person I was at age 5, wandering around our yard in Sioux City, Iowa. We had a house there with open space so there was room to discover bees, butterflies and caterpillars, to collect them for a brief time and watch what they did. Lightning bugs were also high on my list of passions. I remember standing next to the tall hollyhocks on the corner, watching the bees disappear into each blossom, emerging in a bit covered with yellow pollen. When they left I’d stick my nose in the flower and look like I’d done a face plant into a mustard jar. I was a dirty little kid. Even in the concrete world of Chicago apartments, there were still grasshoppers to catch in the empty, weedy lot down the street.
A whole lifetime has passed between those early years and now. Growing up, love, marriage, work and children happened. But along the way, my interest in the natural world persisted. When Michael and I bought this big old farmhouse with its neglected double lot, we turned our attention outside and began to develop an environment that met both our needs. We dug and weeded and laid out our individual interests, section by section.
Michael grew the food, and I grew the flowers, shrubs and trees. He kept things tidy while I hurled seeds and seedlings into the ground. So many hours, working out there, each inviting the other to check out what we’d done.
He was always giving me unasked for advice as I was more likely to be content with imperfect, jungle-esque beds while his were weedless and neatly manicured. Just the opposite of how the inside of the house was with only his desk as orderly as his vegetable and herb patches, and me trying to keep everything else from disappearing from his tossing of random things anywhere. We made it work for decades. Now he’s gone, the kids are grown. After I realized I couldn’t keep up with his vegetable garden, I repurposed it into a pollinator garden to benefit all the species under duress during this time of who knows what climate change will do next?
I plant tomatoes and peppers in his honor although they’re mostly stolen by rabbits and squirrels. They’re doing a nice job of eating my apples and pears as well. Only his perennial herbs and raspberry bushes remain and they can stay here as long as they choose to return. I feel like a child every day as I go out to this ground which feels like the two of us are in it and enjoy the creatures who’ve made this spot part of their itineraries. I’m so tuned in to this space that I wade into shrubs covered with bees because I now believe they know I’m on their side and so they won’t sting me. I guess that’s pretty ridiculous but it feels less neurotic than I used to be. Basically this post is to display what once was, what is now and the portraits of the beauties who’ve graced my days for months. I’ll miss them during the winter but there are the avian friends who stick around all year and who’ll need tending during cold, snow and ice. So here they are for your viewing pleasure, my summer obsessions of 2019. From that little girl grown older by decades but still filled with wonder.