Monday, May 3, 2010

Once Upon a Greenhouse Window

I am so sorry I disappeared. I had computer problems that hopefully have been solved, finally, with some rewiring here and there. Then I was knocked for a loop, but in a good way. At least things will be good once the dust settles.

Away from this blog, I am a freelancer and have been tending to that part of my life. So I am posting a piece from a website I write for to explain myself a bit. Then I hope to be back very soon, once I stop shaking (!), for another "Paris" installment.

Thank you, Ellen, for your very sweet note asking after me!


We moved into the house just weeks before I became a mother. It was my refuge. It sheltered us as we cried a river of tears, all of us adjusting to a new life, a new way of being. And those tears reshaped us, molded us into a family.

Later, the house spoke, telling me that the roses, the dogwoods and the holly that had been here when we moved in weren't enough, that I needed to garden in the small spaces outside for the first time in decades. So I went to nurseries and garden centers and talked to people about what to do and brought things home to plant.

Then I discovered the wonder of seeds. Or rediscovered them, they were my father's favorite way to garden, his passion, which had been waiting inside me too, all along. We all are gardeners, I think, it just takes time to find the things within us to bring into the open, to coax into bloom. When we are gardening from that inner space, we are so like our gardens.

Someone I grew up with told me recently that she has great success growing orchids. I didn't know that, but I wasn't surprised. She yearns to live in a tropical climate. That's like my obsession with Angel's Trumpets, another tropical native. I'm too far north, so I grow the angels, defying nature, surrounding myself with the accessories of the climate I yearn for.

I grow the angels in pots outside my Virginia home, the house where I felt my late father's presence, so palpable, on the night before my son was born. I woke up in labor, but it wasn't yet time to go to the hospital, so I told my husband to go back to sleep until dawn. My eyes were drawn over and over to a dark corner of the basement family room where I chose to wait. I could not see my father, but I sensed him there, in just that spot. At times I was sure I detected his scent. He kept my terror at bay.

And it may be for that reason I have resisted leaving here. We grew out of this house long ago. We never intended to stay for so long. My husband has wanted to move for years. Then, a couple of years ago, my son, now 16, started lobbying. Although I did not want to move, I agreed to look.

Then it happened. We found a storybook house in lovely condition, so a move is in the works, with all the madness that entails, especially for someone like me. I like to be, well, settled. But the new house has more room for my gardening. It has a lovely wooden deck and a covered back porch that needs only a ceiling fan and some wicker furniture to be perfect.

It also has something else. I'm always so sad in the winter, because of the northern Virginia cold, because I can't garden indoors with the bad light, the drying electric heat.

But when I walked into the storybook house, there it was, in the kitchen over the sink -- a greenhouse window, something I always have wanted.

The sun was shining through the glass. The second I saw that window, I knew. This house, too, was speaking to me.