The following essay was written by my grandmother, Rose Ridnor. I found it humorous because I’m often precariously balanced on a ladder, in the middle of summer, trimming the dead flowers off our two lilacs in Mount Vernon, WA. And while I have the clippers, the nearby apple trees also gets a trimming.
The lilac tree was long overdue for pruning. This particular morning, after spending almost two hours pulling weeds, cutting, and cleaning up the front and side of the house, I was finally ready to begin trimming the lilac. When I as more than half done, I found I was getting terribly tired.
The burning sun had followed me all morning, making my face flush and sticky with sweat. My legs ached from leaning against the runs of the ladder, my hands were stiff from wielding the clippers. I just had to finish. Stop now and who knows when I could get back to it. So I pushed harder with the clipping and snipping to finish faster.
I was concentrating hard on lopping off a heavy branch, my mind as blank as it could get, when out of the blue, a line of words popped into my head. It was odd. I eased off a second to repeat it to myself, “I can always plant another tree, but I can never grow another me.”
Quickly, I fathomed its meaning, and for a moment was tempted to heed its message. But no, I couldn’t stop now. I had to finish.
But it kept bugging me. Why am I pushing myself? What am I out to prove? I have just so much energy, exhaust it, and I’m finished. The tree doesn’t give a darn whether I cut off its dead flowers or crowded limbs. It will just go on doing what it has to do: Grow and produce more flowers that will die, and I’ll have to cut off.
I set the clippers down, stepped off the ladder, went into the den, and plopped into a chair. I could feel the tiredness ease out of my body.
Ten minutes later, quite refreshed, I went out, put away the ladder and tools, left the sweeping to Morris [husband], and that was that! I didn’t hear one word of protest from the lilac tree.
Life is a constant weighing of the importance of one’s own self in relation to everyone, and everything else.
When Rich and I met, I was living in cute three-bedroom house in Sherwood, Oregon with a yard full of flowering bushes, spring bulbs, ornamental grasses, creeping pyracantha, and a giant rose bush, Cecile Brunner, locate in the far corner of my front yard. Once it took root, Cecile Brunner grew profusely, needing to be aggressively trimmed every year to prevent it from cascading over the sidewalk.
Year later, when we moved to Kirkland, Washington, I purchased another Cecile Brunner to commemorate our anniversary. This plant, however, wasn’t particularly healthy. I kept it in a pot, which probably contributed to its lack of vigor. Nevertheless, it finally took off, growing two or three branches, which were four to five feet in length.
In the fall, not wanting thorny rose branches stretched across the deck, Rich wielded a pair of clippers. I was devastated, believing Cecile Brunner represented our relationship, and by cutting off the branches Rich was dampening our lives together. Adding to my belief, the bush barely grew the next year.
Disappointed, I brought it to our Mount Vernon house, sticking it in the ground, and placing little faith in its survival.
I placed the same faith in the roses we transplanted from my mother’s house. She always had dozens of rose bushes. When we lived in Tarzana, California (San Fernando Valley), she’d purchase experimental roses from Jackson & Perkins. They were identified by a number on a metal tag. Occasionally, she’d learn that one of the roses was given a formal name and released to the public. One of these was French Lace, which was bred from R. Dr. A. J. Verhage and Bridal Pink™.
When she moved to Sherwood, Oregon, she dedicated the front of her house to roses and bulbs. She prided herself on keeping them trimmed, but as the years passed, they were neglected, and incorrectly pruned by numerous gardeners who haphazardly hacked off the branches. In addition, because the gardeners “raked” out the weeds, the front year turned into a mish-mash of straggly rose bushes, rampant sedum ground cover, bloomed-out bulbs, swatches of miscellaneous, unkempt plants, and bare soil.
After she moved out of her house, we tidied the yard, laid bark dust, and hoped the tenant had an interest in gardening. She didn’t, and two years later, implored us to remove the rose bushes and plant grass.
DNA to Thrive
In December, we showed up with boots, shovels, clippers, and tarps. We crudely trimmed and dug out the roses. Some we had to leave because their roots were intertwined with those of a large maple tree, which the tenant wanted cut down because of the amount of leaves it dropped in the fall.
Sliding in the mud, with rain pouring down, we dug out over a dozen full-sized roses, and around two dozen miniature roses. The latter, my mother had probably purchased from grocery stores, and plunked in the ground after they bloomed.
We had to wait a week to plant the roses, which were in horrific shape with large, gnarled bud unions (at the bottom of the main stem), hacked off branches, and ripped up roots. Like Cecile Brunner after Rich had chopped off the branches, they were essentially death row roses with little probability of surviving.
With jaded optimism, we planted the roses against the back fence of our Mount Vernon house, heavily fertilized them, trimmed out unnecessary and dead branches, and waited. As the weather warmed, little petioles started to appear on the bare branches. By spring, most of the roses – including the miniatures – were showing positive growth. In May, to my surprise, they started to bloom.
Like Cecile Brunner, once placed in the ground, and given nutrients, they thrived. Today, Cecile Brunner has grown up our two-story deck, and annually rewarding us with sprays of petite pink roses. I suspect the other death row roses will continue to flourish.
Reawakening Like a Rose
When faced with challenges and setbacks it’s easy to throw your hands in the air, and give-up. It’s human nature. We want to continue to move forward in our job, relationships, quality of life, and reaching our goals. When we’re deterred, it hard not to feel defeated.
However, like a struggling rose, we have the potential to once again bloom, given time, persistence, and nourishment. Sometimes, we need to temporarily lean on others to help pick us up, draw our attention to other opportunities or point us in a different direction.
Often, it take longer than expected to bounce back. But, if we recognize the power of revitalization, then we can start to realize the possibilities, growing, blossoming, and reaching new heights.
… yes, the photos are of Cecile Brunner, and the blooms are from several of the rose bushes from my mother’s house.
Last December, Julie received a $100 gift card for several prominent Seattle restaurants. It took until September, our 12 year wedding anniversary, to use the card. While the food was trendy and elegantly presented, it wasn’t memorable. In a sense, 2014 was similar with high expectations, and some disappointments.
We started the year with Rich diving into being a realtor for Coldwell Banker Bain. He spent months creating an engaging website – http://www.RichLaryRealtor.com – eye-catching mailers, and other promotions. For three months, he sent the mailers, and waited, and waited for a client to make contact. After some investigation, he learned the mailers were never sent because the post office’s automated mail sorting system couldn’t distinguish Rich’s contact information from the recipients’ addresses, both on the back of the card. The post office simply discarded 800 post cards without notice! Government efficiency at its best!
In addition, the few clients he engaged weren’t able to find suitable houses, struggled to sell their houses or changed their minds. While he held many open houses, nearly everyone who walked through the doors already had realtors. The handful of transactions he oversaw resulted in commission that came nowhere close to covering his costs.
By mid-year, Rich realized he needed to do something different. Fortunately, everything lined up perfectly, and after several interviews, in June, he secured a year-long contract role at Microsoft, testing Windows 8 applications. He works independently, testing applications on the breadth of devices from Windows phones to Windows PCs, and tablets. In addition, he works in a small lab with a bank of windows, overlooking a forested area.
Julie started the year as a contractor for Microsoft Information Security and Risk Management, creating amusing internal awareness programs. She’d started working for the group last October. While she received kudos for her work, and was making in-roads with fostering awareness of security scams, her contract wasn’t renewed, leaving her searching for jobs in mid-June.
Like Rich, her resume landed in the right hands at the right time. Two weeks after her Microsoft contract ended, she started working at Fluke in Everett. Her year-long contract was to develop and market the service programs for Fluke’s industrial tools, something she did at Tektronix and Dell. The week before Thanksgiving, however, she was told there’s no funding for 2015 so she’s back to looking for a job.
With our jobs in flux, we opted for a couple of mini, two-day vacations. In March, we went to Orcas Island in the Puget Sound, driving from one end to the other, and hiking. We took Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada, in May, spending two wonderful days walking, taking the elevated trains from one end of the city to the other, and enjoying the panoramic view from our hotel room at the historic Empire Landmark.
When it warmed up, we took several lengthy bike rides, and paddled around Lake Washington in our kayak. In late October, we had an unexpectedly magical day visiting Mount Baker, which made us realize, we really need to get out more, and tour the spectacular Pacific Northwest.
We also enjoyed gardening at our Mount Vernon house, producing bumper crops of tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, berries, and apples.
In early spring, Rich’s daughter, Stacey (above), moved back to Bremerton, Washington to work for the Bremerton Naval Shipyard. Her move gave us excuses to visit and several times ride ferries from Seattle, Edmonds, and Port Townsend.
We also made several trips to Portland, Oregon, to visit Rich’s son Chris (below) his wife Shawnie, and their two-year old, Coen. On November 18, the threesome became four with Caitlyn being born, weighing 7 pounds 13 ounces. Exciting!
While in Portland, we also met up with Julie’s cousin, Bobby (above), along with her best friend, Wendy.
As the year progressed, Doris (Julie’s mother) mobility started to decline. She was moved into a retirement home in Mount Vernon in early June, along with her cat Mei-Mei. After an initial adjustment period, she spent more time out of her room. By September, however, her strength declined along with her attitude and appetite. On the evening of October 12th, she was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia. Her health declined dramatically, and by the next afternoon, surrounded by family, she passed away.
On the pet front, we continue to have five cats, five birds, numerous ravenous squirrels (who entertain the cats), and several visiting raccoons (one mother with four adorable babies). We take way too many pictures of Lila, our all-white cat, wearing various hats or engaged in cute behavior, which we post on social media site.
We hope you had a memorable 2014, and are welcoming 2015 in good health and spirits.
Rich and Julie Lary