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Purple Flowers As A Trojan Horse, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:51am

Here’s what’s blooming in my garden; dicentra, commonly known as Bleeding Heart. This I believe is dicentra formosa.

Here’s what’s not blooming, iris douglasiana, commonly called Native Pacific Iris.

We’re backwards guys. The iris has bloomed around Easter ever since it was planted 20 years ago. To bring it back to flowering I need to dig up my plants, divide them into multiplied bunches, relocate. I knew this had to happen soon, turns out soon was last year. The dicentra on the other hand, has hardly bloomed recently and it’s profuse.

I haven’t changed much on purpose – only moving a couple of hydrangeas closer to the lawn to minimize sprinkler coverage. But the garden changed itself. How so? A tree fell down, of course. Then we had a very dry January and February, but a rainy March to date. So, exeunt Iris, enter Bleeding Heart.

Also a bunch of violas self-seeded in my gardenia pot, accompanied by a veritable horde of purple alyssum in the ground behind.

All of which I say as background for an anecdote. My daughter is selling her furniture in preparation for her move up North. Some of this furniture had been mine. I asked her to keep a Chinese rug that my mother bought me in 1979, at Macy’s in New York. Partly for sentiment, but also it’s lovely and kind of historic having been sold here so soon after China opened up.

The rest I’ve been glad to see go, even though she did sell one table that I also had feelings for. I got it in 1980, when I moved into the co-op apartment my inheritance allowed me to buy on Riverside Drive and 104th, in Manhattan. I had no right beyond family fortune to live where I did, but I loved that place and the process of setting up home on my own. My parents had divorced only a couple of years before, I had no idea about life, but I could buy a prewar co-op with herringbone hardware floors and a glass-paned French door. The door led to a hallway and two bedrooms. For water in the bathrooms, pillowy white ceramic handles. Labelled incorrectly, the Hot was in fact Cold.

So, the table. Marble-topped, but modern. Narrow, to fit my little entry hall. Chrome-based. Rectangular, long-legged. I’ve always felt that by keeping it I remembered more. But when I realized the table was going I spent some time actively seeing everything again and that was good. The old elevator with round buttons. By holding on to old furniture, I had in some way allowed myself to forget.

I’ve never been one for the Kondo philosophy of Everything You Keep Must Spark Joy. I treasure some of my sadnesses and failures. But this has been a good week for a famous 1970s philosophy, If You Love It Let It Go.

That apartment was less grand than it sounds, by the way. The windows rattled like crazy and being young and foolish I replaced the originals with quiet vinyl-framed whatsits. Also the kitchen was a cockroach-infested rathole, a few cruddy appliances shoehorned along two facing walls, room only for two people to stand back to back, sink to stove.

Sometimes there’s more in the losing than in the having. Also, my mother’s dementia is worsening and she can barely talk but I really love her now. This feels connected but I am not grand enough to overtly say how.

Maybe all along I have just been bribing you with purple flowers to listen to my strong feelings.

Have a good weekend.

43 Responses

  1. Such a bittersweet story (I love the sweet part and sympathize with the bitter one)
    “Sometimes,there’s more in the losing than in the having”-so nice said and true indeed (and sad…but not always…)
    Bleeding Heart-never heard the name,but….
    Flowers help…
    Take care

  2. In a way, you have lost your mother, but by filling that space with memory and love, you have found her again, and can love her as herself (whoever she may be now) and love her more simply and openly.

    It’s not just “things” that spark joy!

    1. @Victoire, And of course you knew her. If you had seen her 3 months ago, you would still have recognized Nancy. Now I don’t know. If only things could spark joy we’d be lost! Thank god for memory and love.

  3. Lisa, I look forward to your posts. This one is particularly moving and evocative. No time to say more, major family crisis, but I want to let you know that I, for one, don’t need to be bribed!

    1. @Marie, Thank you. I am very sorry you are having a family crisis, I send you best wishes for resolution. And maybe I am just bribing myself with the purple flowers, coaxing out the truth.

  4. Perhaps this is not the time or place to say I love the direction your bog has taken. So much more depth and perception. You fill my head with thoughts, past, present and a bit of possibllity.

  5. You write so well . If I told people about this post they would have to read it – so often your posts are like that . I think the quote is ‘what oft was thought but n’ere so well expressed’ ? – and economical too .

    1. @Rukshana Afia, Thank you ever so much. And you should always feel free to share my posts, if you want to. I am guessing most writers love it when readers share their work, I sure do.

  6. This may be my favorite post you have ever written, and that is saying something because the competition is stiff. How bittersweet yet lovely a trajectory you trace from your garden, to your daughter, to the meaning of physical objects, to your youth and your parents parting, and the love that comes if and when we see our parents as vulnerable humans who happened to bring us into the world. You say so much by leaving it unsaid. Yes, “Sometimes there’s more in the losing than in the having. Also, my mother’s dementia is worsening and she can barely talk but I really love her now.” My path with my mom, with whom I had a complex relationship, now has some moments of love past all corporeal complications. Maybe this is in some way what you are referring to, unless I project.

    Your writing, I would add, again has that quality of coming from within your heart, without barrier, and in a moving stream of thought-to-thought wisdom. Lily-pad hops. A stream of consciousness kind of style. I love it.

    1. @Katherine C. James, Thank you! Thank you thank you! In some ways I am just with my mom in ways I couldn’t be before – her social persona and mine conflicted. Our more essential selves are happy together.

      And I did just let myself write – then I edited of course, but the initial impulse was stream of consciousness and also I just said to heck with commas a lot;).

  7. Lovely and evocative. Time passing, change, memories – beautiful, with a tinge of sadness, yet accepting of the changes wrought by time. Seeing you make those connections is one of the many reasons I read your blog.

    1. @MJ, It feels as though the connections make themselves. As though you all by reading me and commenting all these years opened up a space and every now and again I get to send out a request and the web sends itself back. That makes me sound like I think I’m important, which I’m not, or confused about how writing works, which, maybe I am. xoxox.

  8. This is such a beautiful post, beginning with the garden and how it guides you into change and loss, memory and growth, and most of all love.

  9. Thank you for this beautiful post. Insightful, lovely, and loving. And some tricky territory for a Sturdy Gal and High Wasp. (my background also)

    1. @Wendy, Thank you very much. And it is tricky territory, and without this blog and its history and forbearance I’d never be writing like this.

      As it were;).

  10. It is so hard to accept change, for me at least. I feel as though this post was addressed to me. Can’t explain why but I feel connected to the thoughts here. Thank you for sharing this poignant post. Namaste.

    1. @Jane, Maybe there are networks of connection that we experience but don’t actually know about. Namaste. And all the best.

  11. Ah, so much here, both that which you articulate and that which you gesture towards, that ineffable, numinous “stuff” — It’s almost the “umami” of emotions or of emotional perceptions, the way you roll together the sweet and the sad and the lost and the recovered. . .
    Just last week, looking at gardens in Portland, I was pierced by how much I still missed mine. And within minutes, was remembering that so much of it would have been needing just the kind of work you’re speaking of for yours. And that I had, if I’m honest, been tiring of doing that kind of work. Another layer of letting it go, and perhaps not quite relevant to the connections you’re making, except to me. Anyway, thanks so much for this poignant post. Take care of you…

  12. So sorry about your Mom. My younger brother had early onset dementia. It’s just brutal. Your daughter’s match is so spectacular. Will she be in Seattle? I lived there for 22 years – the rain takes some adjustment. It’s not so bad when you’re working. I hope she’ll be very happy with her program. The pots look good. I miss having a garden but not the doing of stoop labor!

  13. Thank you for this post. I really like that pot of violas, and I like what you said to Katherine James, in addition to the connections you wrote about.

  14. Thought provoking post. As I ponder my belongings and what to keep as we downsize into another phase of life, I am motivated by memories of objects and furniture.

    Sorry about your Mom. My dad had dementia. Speech was one of the first things he lost. By the end, the dad I once knew was long gone. A difficult journey for all.

  15. As soon as I read this post, instinctively Philip Larkin’s poem ‘An Arundel Tomb’ rose to the top of my mind, most especially the final line: “What will survive of us is love”.

  16. You have done it again, managed to take your readers on an incredible journey of love, loss, and letting go.

    Only you crafted this prose so beautifully, with such a subtle,gentle voice. Your ability to weave this transition of family, things, and your relationship to and with them—GAAAA!

    Your writing skills are truly enviable. I find myself wanting to go back and reread this beautifully woven treasure again. It is to be savored.

    What a gem you are Dear Lisa.

  17. It’s startling the memories that come flying out of corners and crevices when we start to make these moves, including moving a parent into a safer place for them. I was surprised by what I wanted to keep and what I did not. We have no control over this and in a way that’s a blessing.

  18. In life we find sisters in the most unusual places and ways. Thank you. Each life is unique yet so very close in heartfelt emotion.

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