Violas: lost and found

About a year ago, in May, I came across violas on the side of a dirt road.   “Free,” the sign said.  A heavy spade-sized wet soil clump topped with flowers on top of a Blue Seal feed bag for easy transport.

I stopped, of course.  The clump was heavier than expected, and their scent as I knelt to pick them up was overwhelming, almost dizzying.    Sunlight filtered through overhead branches on a narrow dirt road, the green of new spring leaves, and the dirt of the road crunched underfoot.

I had no idea violas could be so heavily scented.  I filled the front seat of my car with a huge clump of violas.  I tucked them in the front foot well on the passenger side.  The fragrance filled the car.  The entire ride home all I could smell was violas.  Not all violas have a fragrance.  These did.

Once home, I planted them close to the house, in a sunny east facing garden bed and around a sugar maple tree near the garage.  I  brought some more over to my mother’s and planted them there under a rapidly darkening sky in the rain, at the edge of an oncoming hailstorm.  As I went to put my trowel away, the rain came off the eaves and drenched me and as I struggled with the lock on the cellar door, hail started.  I dashed for the safety of the car, wet clothes and hair, and drove home through the storm.

This spring, a year later, I’ve been watching for their return. Violas usually come back year after year, either from persistent perennial roots or from having self-sown seeds. They’re called ‘ Johnny Jump Ups,’ I think because they usually come back.  It’s a little odd that I can’t find any trace of them this year.  The crocus bloomed, the hostas are sending up spikes, and there are shoots of lily of the valley leaves and violets, full-blooming daffodils, but no trace yet of these violas.  We had a late spring, and that may be why.  But I wonder.  I wonder if they are gone.

Those violas, that hailstorm, it was the middle of May exactly a year ago.  At the time they were a welcome sign of warm weather and they reminded me of past family gardens, and I was charmed by their scent and by the generosity of some unknown gardener setting them out for others.

While wondering whether they’ll come back, those violas remind me of what I have lost since last year.  As the leaves unfurl and the grass greens, I remember last spring. A year ago I planted these at my mother’s.  She died that October.

The not-so-funny-but-funny thing about loss is how it’s possible to keep knocking right against or bumping right into what is no longer there.  Those gaps where something or someone no longer is… they are bordered by surprisingly hard edges of habit or memory.  Habits that no longer work as they once did (oh, you say to yourself, I’ll just ask… but no, you can’t ask.  There is no one there any longer to ask).

Empty spaces with hard edges made of habit, or of memories, this is where violas lead to the remembrance of loss. These flowers of mine, the ones someone shared with me, and that I shared with my mother, the ones I remember in my grandmother’s garden, the ones I’ve planted before in other homes, the people I used to know, those I loved, family, the homes I’ve lived in, the gardens. It’s almost mother’s day and I feel as if I’m knocking up against the borders of a lot of empty spaces.

But it is, at last, spring again.


Searching for Grace

Bean & Bantam all rights reserved

Outrage sells news. Outrage makes you click a link, and rakes in on-line profit. We tend to click on headlines that serve up outrage more than any other type. Outrage fuels resentment. Resentment fuels more resentment.

We have enough resentment. We have enough to be outraged about. We have enough divisiveness. We have more than enough derision, bullying, and snarkery. We have plenty. We don’t need more snark. We don’t need outrage. We don’t need resentment. We don’t need walls. We don’t need registries. We don’t need bullhorns. We don’t need hate. On the flip side, we don’t need peace or love as much as we need something else. Why something else? Why not peace and love, and “all you need is love”? Because at this point, at this time, in this world, I’m pretty sure peace and love are… well, maybe just too far out of reach for right now.

What we need is grace. Can we start with just a little bit of grace?

In trying to figure out how to define grace, or how to explain this idea of grace as the thing that we need more than anything else right now, I poked around in search of what grace really means. Merriam Webster wasn’t helpful at all. I mean, not at ALL, which surprised me. Their definition doesn’t grasp even a little bit of what I mean by grace. 1) “Simple elegance or refinement of movement.” No. 2) (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Uh, I think I mean grace is a more secular way. We can’t bestow blessings on others without god or christian belief? 3)”do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence.” By one’s presence? Really? Not by one’s gifts or one’s humor or one’s talent? To do honor or credit just by showing up? What about the factor of doing whatever it is WELL. So Merriam Webster has some work to do in my opinion. Their nuance on grace is completely missing, somewhat like the grace I’m thinking of is just about almost but not quite missing in the modern world, or specifically in 2016 and 2017 in the United States.

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