Writings during the month of October
A Magic Garden
A Memoir by Lynda McKinney Lambert
In the early days of Autumn, I walked with my granddaughter, Angel. We strolled down a stony sidewalk beside a newly created garden that my husband and I developed this year in the summer months. As Angel and I walked together, I pointed out the metal sculptures which her grandfather made many years ago. He used to do work on cars in our garage. Bob made the functional steel props to assist him when he was repairing the cars. One by one, Bob carried his creations out of his garage and placed them among the plants in the garden. This long plot of land became a living work of art – a “happening,” of sorts.
The new garden was not something I planned. Not at all. In fact, this sixty-foot strip of land had once been beautiful when our children were growing up. At that time, there was a little pond surrounded by stones from the creek in the center of the blooming flowers. Goldfish lived in the pond during the summer months and we brought them into the house for the colder seasons.
During the years of raising our 5 children, I used to begin most of my days with an early morning walk. Later, I worked in my flower gardens.
My routine changed gradually.
The children grew up and my life was altered significantly when I decided to go back to the university to pursue my career. The flower beds were neglected because the academic life took me away from home for 9 years as I worked at 2 different universities and earned 3 degrees. This all led me to the teaching position where I worked until I retired in 2008.
As I reflect on this now, I realize that the past thirty years of my life were consumed by pursuits in education and in working.
Finally, in retirement, I am able to work at home again and I love it because I can devote my body and my thoughts to revitalizing our home and surrounding property. I have come full circle and I am thankful I am strong and healthy and I can now do what I always loved doing. I no longer go jogging or walking for 5 miles each morning, as I did back then, but I am back to working in my flower beds with renewed zeal. Gardening is a great way to exercise and get some sunshine. My spirits lift when I go outside and begin working with the plants. At first, I thought I would work just one hour a day. Before long, I was working for longer periods because it was so exciting to see the neglected and overgrown areas beginning to come back to life after so many years.
“Angel,” I said, “I love to walk outside at twilight. It’s so magical when the little solar lights begin to turn on. I tell Grandpap, ‘Let’s go out and take a walk along the path and see the garden at night with the lights on.’ I take his arm and we stroll together in the darkness as the little lights twinkle.”
Angel and I paused at the end of the path and gazed down the old concrete stairway that was built at the same time as the house, in the 1920s. This wonderful old house is nearly one-hundred years old.
“Oh, this is so pretty,” Angel said.
“I just love how the stairway looks with the white stone sculpture on the top step and the yellow flowers in the red clay pot.”
I smiled. I felt so proud of what I’d done.
Angel and I turned left near the top of the stairway. We both looked up at the snarled and graceful Rhododendron bush that I planted fifty years ago. The deep forest green and leathery leaves towered over us. In the early summer the bush transforms into a wall of delicate, large, magenta flowers. This bush makes a grotto-type of space in which I planted green and yellow Hosta’s and a single orange lily. The ground is covered with Periwinkle – deep and thick, down the hillside. The deep green vines are like a blanket beneath the bush. Bob and I placed a vintage bird bath in the grotto space – it is made of concrete. Bob painted it a vintage green color. We bought that bird bath our first summer at this house in 1967.
I stand with Angel and I am happy with what Bob and I accomplished.
We are working at bringing back the beauty of the little plots of land on our property. We’ve worked together on this little bit of heaven-on-earth for over half a century.
A few days ago, Bob came into the kitchen carrying a package from a mail-order nursery. I’ve already planted the Asian Lilies and Dutch Iris bulbs. Autumn is officially here. I am imagining how beautiful our Magic Garden will be next spring. And, I can’t wait to see how it looks when snow is covering it later in the year.
In addition to the Magic Garden, I uncovered the large flat stones that lead to the garage. We put the stones there when we built a stone wall nearly fifty years ago. The heavy stones were nearly covered over with grass and dirt. I began to dig them out and solid stepping-stones are now fully exposed. They look like someone cares about them, I thought.
In another area that runs beside our Meditation Garden, I worked all summer to make a narrow horizontal garden. It is about 3 feet deep and it is inside a weathered plank fence that gives privacy and protection between our house and the road in front of it. I set a little white bird bath there and solar lanterns that light up at twilight. In the yard, just under the Ginkgo tree, is a tall, large bird bath made of brass – it has a bird setting on a branch over the water. In this space is my Father’s red rose-bush, which is growing this year. I accidentally cut it off a few years ago and thought it was dead – but this year, it is growing again. Perhaps, it will bloom again one day.
This was a hot summer of sweat and labor and as Autumn is now here, I feel pleasure with it all. I have my eye on some other areas that I will begin to work on next summer.
In past years, I always said, “Summer is not my friend. I’ve never been able to tolerate the heat and humidity.”
But today, on the first day of October, I sit in the Amish rocking chair on our wraparound porch and I feel energized because the season is changing and I am changing, too.