Still in Recovery

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Remember winter? My Hydrangea do – and remind me constantly of what a long, bitter one we endured. A few years ago I decided Hydrangea, would be my fool-proof shrub — blues and pink blossoms lasting well into autumn, stunning even as they fade to a papery brown. They are tough, even after shriveling a bit from thirst, reviving beautifully after watering. Every year my bushes produce bowl-sized blooms that are the center piece of the flower bouquets I cut for the mantelpiece – lasting long past when the Gladiolas and Black-eyed Susan are spent. Not this year. Look!

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Not a bloom in sight. No, I didn’t cut them back — I learned the hard way that flowers grow from old wood and am careful not to prune until well into Spring. Just like my sparse showing of Peonies, the Hydrangea blooms are a casualty of last Winter’s heavy snow and frigid temperatures. So much for fool-proof. There is no such thing, is there? We are all destined to be fooled, to sometimes be fools. This is life. My garden, currently neglected, always feels chock-full of metaphors.

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I mourn there are no Hydrangea blues to brighten the overgrown mess… I mean, otherwise lush bounty, of this year’s garden. There are times in life when there is nothing to do but let time pass and hope for better. I’ve done that before – by days, weeks, months, years. Things will improve. So far in my life, I have never lost that hope. And I’ve pushed myself to go beyond enduring, to always find something to sustain, nurture, perhaps inspire me, within the darkness of disappointment, heartbreak and loss.

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Of course at the height of any pain, I just want to get through it, for it to stop. Sometimes numb is all we can hope for. I marvel at this defense system us humans have – the way shock and pain can make everything slow down, launching a sense of not being entirely there, that nothing is real. This was my state of being after my husband’s death when I needed to carry on and take care of my daughter. I turned inward and slowed, moving through the world with a simultaneous heightened sensitivity yet detachment. Slowly, oh so slowly through more than one change of seasons, I allowed myself to actually feel my loss and grief — to feel anything. And now, I no longer take much of anything for granted.

I take the dearth of Hydrangea flowers in stride. After all, my beloved shrubs are alive – they are in a recovery mode I recognize. Next year, perhaps they will bloom. Meanwhile, remembering winter makes me better savor this remarkable summer.

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2 Responses to Still in Recovery

  1. Wow. This reminds me of how hard this past winter was, and how that hardness has made this summer seem like it’s slipping by too fast. It reminds me of the drought two years ago and some worm or other that killed twenty five pines on our farm, the hard work Bruce is doing to cut them down. He just cut the one standing in front of our kitchen, a tree I wanted gone when we moved here because it blocked my view of a tree line that reminds me just enough of the tree line I used to look at back home, and I mean my childhood home. And now it’s gone and that kitchen window is so stark I relent. It needs curtains or a ruffle, maybe a corny one with chickens and eggs and red buckets printed on.

    And I think about that numb thing, about the not being all there to survive intense pain, how that can be habit, at least for me, after the pain subsided. For me it was numbness and anger. My anger kept the grief at bay for years and years and it too became a habit.

    I’m sorry too for your loss, for that hard work of staying present enough for your daughters, and that hard work of your enduring that pain. I hope that in this summer there are good, surprising gifts yet to come.

  2. Remember when you started to recover from grief? How you began to notice things again? (I’m projecting here, obviously.) Time to notice something new for the garden.
    I have hydrangea flowers, from a plant called Hydrangea arborescens. It’s white, but it flowers on new stock, so it cares nothing for a hard winter. Maybe get one, as a backup?

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