20 January 2014

And Delight Reigned



When my parents asked me this past November what I'd like for Christmas, I told them I wanted two things: my grandfather's piano moved from their home to mine, and a beautiful copy of one of my favorite childhood books, The Secret Garden.

The piano can wait for another post.

Though I was expecting some lovely, artful, Jillian Tamaki-type rendition of the novel, what I received instead was all the better.  They presented me with a hundred-and-three year old second edition.  I wish you could hear how the pages sound as they turn: the softest scrape like dusty wings or thin and brittle leather.  I wish you could smell the scent of century-old paper: musty and deep and just slightly honeyed, like a low key on the ivories or the bottom notes of a signature perfume.
Intoxicating.
The fragrance of history and art and creativity.






I wanted this book on many levels.  As my son grows to the age where he enjoys more substantial storylines, I want him to experience the imagery that this tale inspired in *me* as a little girl.  It's interesting how, as I reread it, the scenes in my mind have altered from the ones I remember imagining twenty-some years ago.  I honestly like the childhood portrayals better... they were freer, less structured in their conception.  Now my years have added realism: tangible gardens literally seen and experienced, existing flora instead of the wildly exaggerated and ridiculous flowers that bloom only in the fertile depths of a child's mind.  I find myself wistful as I close each chapter, a grown woman wishing for the blissful and unhindered vastness of my girlhood imagination-  and I think I must exercise that youthful muscle once again.





I wanted this book, too, because living here at Westover Oaks these past two years has proven to be a bit of my own secret garden story.  A house with a hundred rooms and no one to live in them, the story goes, and all the doors shut.  An emotionally devoid girl who discovers a hidden garden, who hears crying in the night, who discovers joy and who thaws slowly with the coming spring.

I live in a lovely house fit for a family- I have five rooms that are empty or otherwise unused.  For the better part of my first year here, there were nights when, waking slowly from a deep sleep to the sound of crying, I would be confused, startled, and then... "Ah, it was only me."  I have not been barren in terms of feeling, but I had been more or less numb in certain arenas. That was the inside. 

Outside, I have watched the property change for eight seasons.  The house, originally built in '42 and added onto numerous times, sprawls wonky and weathered beneath some of the oldest oaks in town.  Miss Ina Mae Powell was the original owner (and the one who named the place), and it was just recently when painting the wood paneling in the living room that I found a check she had written many years ago, slipped behind a built-in desk and faded to near nothingness... but still lovely pale handwriting, a signature made of inky vines.  

Ina Mae was, among other things, an avid gardener and a member of the Fuquay Varina women's club.  She held numerous state and national awards for flower arranging.  She had the entire property landscaped, and though it is all overgrown and wild, the immense beauty of this place can be seen year-round.  Having loved my own grandmother's green thumb and perfect pink roses, the gardens are a large part of what first drew me to this place.  It was messy and lovely and full of potential.  I felt we had something in common, this house and I. So badly I want to tend to the exterior, bend in the dirt and restore the glory that was once surrounding this structure.  

But the garden teaches patience.  






I have had neither the time nor income to revive the landscape here as it deserves to be revived, but even in its chaotic state, it has calmed and bettered me. I do not know everything that grows here- not by name, nor if each specimen is intentional or misplaced in a weed-ish sense, but I know enough to see the love that was planted at my feet.  I know the lilies, and the iris, the daffodils that are already starting to push their way up through the earth.  I know the azaleas, the camellias, the knockouts and the heavy-fruited nandinas.  I know the japanese maple, the river and pin oaks.  English ivy.  Crepe myrtles and magnolias.  Ligustrum.  Rhododendron.  My own mother, just like her mother, passed on enough so that I might recognize that this place is meant to grow life.... as surely as it has been growing me.






 

Look there, at how out of seeming nothingness, something stunning emerges.  It's in surviving the coldest of our days that I think we earn and gain our warmth.  Life for me is still very delicate in terms of my plans and immediate future.  There is a fragility about my domestic situation- I do not know with any certainty that I will be here come next year to watch the daffodils emerge again,  but I know that in having done so for the past two years, I have myself blossomed into something that at one time or another, I never would have seen as probable.  I have found appreciation for things I once took for granted.  I have fallen in love with the earth.  I have become fully self-sufficient, confident, more mature.  I've become a fighter- no longer so much against others but for myself and against disappointment.  I have grown as a woman and as a mother. I've found joy, found peace, found acceptance. Breaking through the mire of my own mistakes and shortcomings, I've found solid ground.


{image via Pinterest}




There are so many lessons in the realm of the outdoors.  The seasons and the growth cycles preach a perseverance that I have taken to heart.  Each succession brings its own unique and strange beauty, its own brand of blossom and berry.  This is nature at work, and human nature in its essence.  The house and the gardens teach me that we all go through the rotations of internal wind and weather. 

As I write this, I look out the window to my right, where the wisteria vines cast long shadows across the leaf-strewn yard.  Saint Francis, despite his broken hand and stone-stained tears, looks peaceful in the late-afternoon sun.  There are squirrels by the tens, and a thrush in the nearest dogwood.  To my left, the evergreens that hedge the arc of driveway are backlit and textural.  A weeping cherry drifts bare tendrils in a slight breeze.  The ivy flutters.  





And somewhere in it all, here I am: a bit between little Mary Lennox and sweet Ina Mae, watching it all pour forth- virescent hopes, leafy dreams and a thousand spears of tender potential.  It's a good story, mine is, and with every warm passing of the mid-winter sun, I feel the thaw a bit deeper in my bones.  All that has been stiff is softening.  All that was gray is turning green.


There was a girl in a house that became a home. 
There was a shift, a growth, in each of them.
Outside and in, all awoke.

And delight reigned...

22 comments:

  1. What a lovely gift. I hope that you get to continue to grow in that beautiful home of yours!

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    1. Thank you so much, Emma. And thank you for being here. <3

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this! And the photos are so beautiful :)

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    1. Oh my, Hilde, thank you! I so appreciate you taking the time to read it and leave such a kind comment! <3

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  3. This is so wonderfully written; beautiful and artfully chosen words. I often feel that you are writing the story of my life when I read about yours. Our experiences seem to be so parallel at times. You are a joy. :)

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    1. Thank you, lady! I owe you a note, I know. I cannot wait to see you and share more in person. xx

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  4. Aaaaah! We're relaxing into life again. :O)

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  5. The seasons of life all have a purpose and a beauty - even the ones that are cold and brittle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6rUjYj3x9k

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    1. Beautiful... thank you, Francesca. xo

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  6. Such a gorgeous post, Jess. I always look forward to reading your posts, and seeing your images (both the photos and through your words). May you continue to grow, emerge, become. Love to you...

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    1. Your comments always lift me up, Adara. Thank you for being such a steady source of peace in my life. xo

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  7. Woman, you can WRITE...gorgeous post, gorgeous you!

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    1. To quote you... "!!!!!" :)
      Thank you so much, Kerin! That means so much. Sending a huge hug your way. <3

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  8. Beautiful. I hung on to every word. Such a sweet gift and I am now in need of a copy of the book to share it with my daughters. How dis i forget this book? The dreams i had as a child? Of being the girl in the secret garden. It was so real in my mind then. Thank you for the memory.

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    1. Shannon, thank you for drawing the connection and finding some sweet bit of your past in it. I appreciate you reading and being here. Enjoy the reminiscing and your time with your daughters. <3

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  9. Beautiful!! You have always been a fighter - otherwise you would not be where you are today!! Congrats and can't wait to see you in a few weeks love!!!

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    1. AH! I cannot wait to hug your neck! Thank you for ALWAYS supporting and being there for me, lady. Much love to you and yours. xo

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  10. there's so much more to life than what we *think* is important, and you show me this to be true….

    xo

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    1. A mutual feeling. So much love and warmth to you, Marie.

      xo

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  11. Loved reading your post!!!
    Oodles of hugs to you

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    1. !!!!!!! Much love to you, sweet woman. xoxo

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