I’m pensive by nature and if anything I have become more so during the past year. In my solitude I have read and thought about the history of humankind. I have seen the mistakes that people have made and marveled at the glorious achievements of our minds and our goodness. Spring is one of my favorite times of year with the glory of nature bursting forth to remind us that even after the harshest of times new life promises brighter futures. Easter is the ultimate triumph over our earthly natures and the inevitability of death. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus promises us an eternity of peace.
I think of my grandmother, Minnie Bell, in the spring time. She was a child of God and of nature. She had a knack with people, animals and plants. It was said that she could stick a dead twig in the ground and it would burst forth in splendid blooms under her tender care. Her yard was a show stopper and particularly so at Easter when her lilies caused many a passerby to stop to gaze in amazement at the blooms. Birds and butterflies came to visit in profusion as well and I enjoyed nothing more than walking through her little paradise while she sweetly explained the stories of each lovely plant as though they were her friends.
It has been a tough year for everyone. Last Easter most of the world was shut down. Streets were empty. Stores and restaurants were shuttered. My husband and I spent Easter Day alone for the first time since we were married fifty two years ago. It was a quiet day on which we went to church from home and listened to Andrea Boccelli sing from the deserted streets of Rome. We had little idea what would happen to those we loved and we felt a sadness that we had never before associated with Easter.
I remember thinking of my grandmother on that day and wondered if the death of her husband and four year old son in 1918 might have been from the pandemic of that year. She died before I had learned of the Spanish flu and its devastation on the world and neither she nor my grandfather ever spoke of it. Suddenly it seemed that she may have been gravely touched by that horrific virus and yet she somehow survived and rebuilt a life with my grandfather.
I never thought that we would still be battling COVID19 a year later even as doctors and scientists warned that it was not going away any time soon. Life became a routine inside my home and the confines of my yard. I contemplated my place in this vast universe and drew on the courage that I knew my grandmother had always possessed during her never easy lifetime. The craziness of the situation only grew as the months went by but I thought of how in my grandmother’s time there had been a war in addition to the pandemic. I remembered how the new hope of the nineteen twenties was followed by a devastating depression and then yet another war. My grandmother never mentioned nor complained of such things. She just puttered in her yard, cooked her delicious meals and loved her family with a contentedness and happiness that was so calming.
My yard had been quite beautiful all through the summer and fall and winter until suddenly there was an unusual freeze for our planting zone. When the temperature dropped back down to a more normal range I was stunned by the damage to my once glorious plants. I saw that many of them were most assuredly dead and others needed tender loving care. With thoughts of my grandmother I donned my rubber boots and grubby clothing and worked for days on end to reclaim the splendor that was once the highlight of my domain. Weeks went by so quickly as I dug and pruned and planted. Now it is Easter time again and I have been thinking about my grandmother, the angel who always seems to be with me.
This week my yard is showing signs that it will rise once again to the loveliness that once defined it. Roses are blooming in a profusion of many colors. The azaleas are displaying their deep purple and scarlet flowers. The amaryllis bulbs are sending glorious shoots of red and white and pink into the air. The hollies are hosting bees and the ferns are peeking from under the soil that we have enriched with mulch. Caladiums and lilies have overcome the attempts of the cold to destroy them. We have selected strong plants to replace those that were not suited to survive the cold. They are small now but I know that will grow and one day fill out the areas with magnificence.
I feel hopeful this Easter. I am ignoring the naysayers and focusing on those who are good and loving and kind just as Jesus was so long ago. His message was really quite simple and one that my grandmother followed to the letter. All he asked of us is to love and so many among us have done just that during our horrific year. They have sacrificed time and talents and even income. They have shown us that we humans still have more good tracing through our veins than bad. I see now that my grandmother’s secret to survival was to always look for the beauty in people and in the world. She created joy in everything she did by not allowing the weeds of our natures to overtake what is best about us.
In this holiest of weeks in the yearly calendar I am feeling hopeful and also understanding that I must be as patient with people and the virus that plagues us as I am with my garden. My grandmother taught me that. Everything and everyone needs time and care and nourishment to bloom. There is no paradise on earth but we can come close if love guides us past our sometimes selfish natures. My grandmother shared the vision of her garden and the flowers and plants and vegetables that grew in it. She kept only the bare minimum that she needed and gave away the rest. In her folksy wisdom she understood the secret to life and uncomplicated the complexities that we all face. Love one another and we will be fine. Plant that love wherever you go.