JANUARY Wanting to simplify our lives, we started 2020 off on a good note. After the tenant gave her notice, …
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.
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.
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.