24 June 2002

A Woman Who Grows Roses

Ah… coming home. I’m back among my things, my sweet little town, my dog, my mountain filled with imagination and delectable trees, my work and the day-to-day of life whirring by like a bowling pin threatening to drop. There are no tide pools here and no spectacular fishes, but there’s a feel about home, the familiarity of the dirt and the sounds and the air.

I looked in the mirror this evening and I thought, “I’m a woman who grows roses.” The thought made me giggle just a little inside. The roses were from Elsie, old roses that she likely planted years and years before. I tore out most of the bushes and the neighbor begged to retrieve them out of the yard waste bucket while a woman up the hill towed several more away in a red wagon. I kept one and this one keeps my house in bounty of roses – every room, windowsills, every table. I am a woman who grows roses. Cassie comes to pluck a flower from the garden to woo an object d’arte.

There was a neighbor in Minneapolis who bought Mr. Lang’s house after he died in his car of a heart attack one night. She grew roses. Mr. and Mrs. Lang never grew roses. Mrs. Lang passed away and I would sit on Mr. Lang’s back steps and he would take out an angel that when twisted on its base would slowly turn in circles and play a melody. He drove a white car. He somehow felt like part of our family. But when the new neighbors moved in, the woman, the wife, she planted roses. No longer were we welcomed to run across the lawn or slide down the hillside in the winter. Suddenly it was their yard and visitors weren’t welcome. I would later baby sit for her children and she would later leave her husband and her three children and never come back. By now I’m sure those are considered old roses and I just wonder if a new owner has simply fenced the yard.

I am a woman who grows roses and plants basil in flower boxes. Only one of the basil plants survived Kauai and none of the flowers to speak of. I began again with Gerber daisies, which with some tending are growing strong and blossoming beautifully. I also added more basil and I’ll pinch my first harvest tomorrow and try my hand at pesto once again. I’m assured that there is no way this could be organic basil, but since pesticides are illegal in this town, with the exception of treatment for termites and wasps, I’m not sure what toxic chemicals are making their way into my basil.

I am a woman who grows roses, plants basil in flower boxes, tends Gerber daisies and walks her dog every day on a beautiful mountain full of imagination. I looked in the mirror and I saw her – fine lines around her eyes, sunburned skin, freckles on her nose and dirt on her arms and feet. Her hair is strawberry blond and bleached for the relentless sun. She looks peaceful save for the crease in the center of her forehead – a worry wrinkle that began to show itself in her early twenties, felt comfortable and stayed. Her eyelashes are so blond they are almost white. She lives in a small town now and she waves to the town gardener when she’s throwing the ball for her dog in the morning before she settles into a day of work or not.

I miss the sound of the ocean hollering and the squawking of Gabriel the cockatoo in the morning. We’ve left that little bit of paradise behind for the meantime to cultivate our garden at home. While away the hillsides turned golden like the color of wheat and the wildflowers changed from fields of wild irises and poppies to patches of sticky monkeys and an occasional morning glory. Small snakes slither across the trails and lizards are more bountiful. The jawbone of a small animal with menacing teeth perched in the middle of the trail yesterday, like a harbinger of bad things to come. Sinewy dried muscles clung to the bone as I marched by wondering what thing this was and what had become of it. Some days are like this too.