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Reweaving

We are fast approaching the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire, which is on July 9th this year. The homeowners are busy as bees weeding, planting, adding flourishes and embellishing with their individual styles. This year has been cool and wet and erratic, a challenge for sure – but each year brings its own trials. I am always amazed at the ingenuity and fortitude of homeowners preparing for hundreds of strangers to walk through their gardens. I am also very grateful for it allows the club to provide very generous scholarships along with community endeavors.

This year, I have the pleasure of writing the garden descriptions, which means I see the gardens as they are emerging and until the crunch is on to go to print. We don’t release the names or addresses until the day of the event, but, dear reader, I CAN tell you that the gardens are as amazing as they are varied. From newer construction to a century old homestead, they reflect the character of the gardeners and their many ways of gardening and there is something of interest for everyone in attendance.  The York High School gardens are an added feature this year and they are as inspiring as they are educational. There is also a Faire in Wilder Park with vendors selling garden related products and plants and there will be a butterfly festival as well. More information is here.

While I cannot show you the gardens, I did want to show you this one element I found in one of the gardens, which harkens back to my previous post on nests. The gardeners, a most charming couple, have incorporated nests in several spots of the garden. I found this one quite enchanting coupled with Emily Dickinson’s words.

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson

 

 

I find it amazing to discover what birds will use to build their nests and how some will determinedly hang on to the dribs and drabs of life to construct a home.

We often find fallen nests, especially after high winds, in our garden. Sometimes they are nests that have been raided by birds of prey or squirrels. It happens when you live in a woodland area. We take the good with the not so. Some of the fallen nests make it onto the Arbor House, they might hold a succulent, or find themselves in our Christmas tree. We have had one nest for at least ten years. It sits on a bookshelf. It is an oriole’s nest and it amazes me. The nest came down in a nasty storm and landed on the chaise lounge on the deck. It took me a some moments to figure out what it was. Eureka moments are so grand, aren’t they? At any rate, how do birds make a nest that looks a purse or sock, and attach a handle from which to hang it from a limb? I can’t keep my shoulder purse on my shoulders, yet, orioles can fashion intricate pocket purses to raise a family in the very tops of old trees.

I was thinking about whatever the day’s news was, weeding out in what has become our Elmhurst Garden. We have our Prairie Garden and the Big Island, a teardrop that is, at this moment, a wild and weedy adventure. A few years back, before the Prairie, Tom dug this smaller garden. We moved a twig of a ginkgo tree, a sapling from my friend June. An oakleaf hydrangea was put in and a patch of lamb’s ears. These were from dear Sharon divisions of divisions of lamb’s ear that I gave her some years before. Don’t you love how plants spring up in a gardener’s life? In time, a peony and a barberry from Marilyn’s yard found their way into our soil,  as did a rose from a woman whose name escapes me now. Then, a number of plants that were saved from the Wilder Park Conservatory renovation got their feet dirty here on the Cutoff. I purchased a few plants over time; salvias, marjoram, lavender. I try to put in plants the deer don’t favor; always an “iffy” proposition. A woman one town over sells off her own plants, seedlings, not a bad little cottage business. I know if they grow in her yard, they will grow in mine, so try to pick up something every year. Some have thrived and perform quite nicely in late spring. Most of the plants in the plot are from friends from Elmhurst and so, this is the Elmhurst Garden.

So, there I was, weeding and dead heading and otherwise ruining my fingernails. I was near the barberry which was really quite a show-off this spring. She was a magnificent riot of colors and textures. I noticed something just a wee bit out-of-place. It was a string. A thin, paper string, perhaps one little piece of packing material that escaped someone’s recycling bin. I reached out to remove it, then halted. It actually looked like it belonged on the barberry and who am I to determine whether or not it belonged. The large sycamore stands nearby and is where oriole nest. There are also elms and maples and oaks. Perhaps the bird from whose beak or claws this string escaped would come back – or another bird would see it and use it to build a new home.

It is gone. The string is gone. The orioles aren’t singing right now. I’m hoping, with the hope we gardeners and dreamers have, that the oriole, or another bird, have this little piece of building material woven into their summer homes.

Here’s to all the nesters out there, especially the dads who have passed on and to those who are still with us, especially my Antler Man, a great Dad and Papa –  who understands why his wife leaves ribbons of paper where they are woven.

Happy Father’s Day!

Twice on the pipes . . .

Oddly enough, Tony Orlando and Dawn have been singing away in my head lately.

Knock three times, on the ceiling if you want me,

twice on the pipes, if the answer is no

There I was, water raining down, my hair all wet and lathered up, when the water pressure slowly diminished until it was but a mere dribble. It would have been easier to rinse with an eye dropper. I somehow managed to get the soap out – and then became shower-deprived, followed by  flusher deprived- if you know what I mean.

For awhile, we were able to wash dishes and hands and use water by tapping on a valve, in the basement, two flights down. This meant we both needed to be in the house. It was, shall I say, an interesting “tap” dance in marital harmony.

I hesitated to complain, but DID, quite vociferously, in fact, to my beloved Antler Man, who had been waiting to shower for a very long time as he recovered from a foot wound. Instead of a shower he was employed in fixing the flusher (which I just wrote for alliteration). We did, in the end, need a new pressure valve and then, a few days later, a new tank. Thank heaven for this dear man who meets many such challenges and for our neighbor Rick who lent a helping hand and some expertise.

All’s well that ends well and a few more horticultural posts are perking away.

Besides being in a flush, I’ve been busy with family, gardening, and life in general and apologize for being absent for such a long while. I hope you are all doing well. For now, while I take another shower, here’s a clip from a movie I enjoy viewing every-now-and-again. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. It reminds me of our recent plumbing issues here on the Cutoff.

Memorial Day

At the end of a rather busy day. I impulsively pulled into the parking lot in Elmhurst’s Wilder Park. I had not been to the Conservatory in a long while, so, thought I would take a few minutes to see what was flowering and to bask in the calm, rejuvenating presence of place. As I pulled into a parking spot, my breath was caught by the kiss of a breeze on the wave of rows of flags. Memorial Day was but a few days away.

My steps took me toward a direction I had not planned. I bypassed the conservatory and ascended the steep steps of the historic Wilder Mansion. The Mansion was closed, but, I took the advantage that the elevated steps would afford me of a different view of the flags.

The flags are placed in remembrance of those who died while in service to their country. They called Elmhurst home; a home that honors them in this park and in other locations on Memorial Day. I was moved by the flags; by what they represent and the sacrifices made by each life and by their loved ones. I said a silent prayer. A young woman, camera in hand, passed by, looked up at me, and climbed the flight of stairs as well.

As I looked out across the landscape, I could see what looked like a large marker just beyond the flags, and decided to walk the small distance of grass, past the flags, to have a closer look. As I walked, the breeze touched the flags, revealing cards which held the names of those who had died. Two children ran between the rows and I thought it about how the sacrifices of those these flags represent gave us a country where children could frolic free and happy on a warm spring day.

The monument I saw in the background was one that had eluded me for several years. I knew it was in Wilder Park,  I just wasn’t successful in finding it. The flags on the lawn and my perch on the steps revealed it to me.

This monument is to honor those from Elmhurst who lost their lives in Vietnam and commemorating the Moving Wall that stood in this park in 1988.

Visiting the Moving Wall in Wilder Park in 1988 was a humbling experience and, I think, a somewhat healing experience for many. It was there that I found the name of a boy from school days; elementary school and high school. It was there we witnessed a friend, head bowed, tears in his eyes. We had not known that he served in Vietnam, nor that most of his squadron had died. His wife had not known he had come to the Moving Wall – alone. It was there I saw a prominent member of the community bow his head and stand. His fraternity brother was named on that wall. It was there that I brought some work friends during our lunch hour, and there one of the principles of the company we worked for went. A few minutes late getting back from lunch, he heard mention of the Moving Wall. He asked me for directions and left. Returning later, he came up to my desk and quietly thanked me. I had not known until that moment that he had served in Vietnam.

I walked from the monument, past the flags and on to the permanent veterans’ memorial in another section of the park. It is here that the annual Elmhurst Memorial Day parade ends and it is here where a military ceremony is held after the parade. It is here where white crosses have been placed in honor and memory of those who gave their lives.

It is not just in Elmhurst, nor just in the United States where memorials are held for fallen military, but, it was here, in this park, where I was, yet again, humbled by the service and the loss of those for whom we take a this Monday at the end of May to honor.

May we always remember.

Just Right

It was a very fine day in May. Sunny and clear. Not too hot, nor too cold – a “just right” sort of day to marry.

A limousine pulled up to the door and the bride was carefully arranged inside, her bouquet set delicately next to her on the car seat by her mother, who was much calmer than the bride had imagined her mother would be.

The door was carefully closed by the attentive driver. The bride’s mother sat down in her own car and was driven away by a friend as the bride was chauffeured off to meet her groom at the church.

As the limousine driver steered the car down the byways and highways en route to the ceremony, he spoke with the bride. A kindly man with a gentlemanly way about him, he asked a simple question one might ask in the moments of moving toward a wedding.

“What will your married name be?” 

O’Neill. My name will be Penny O’Neill.” 

As he drove, he looked into the rear view mirror, which was positioned to see both the traffic outside and his passenger within.

“A very nice name, Penny, but, you will be often called Peggy, from the song Peggy O’Neil”. 

The limousine driver’s prophecy proved to be true, and so it has been that as the young bride grew older she has, indeed, often been called Peggy. In fact, just yesterday, having introduced herself to a couple she had not yet met, the gentleman held out his hand and said

“It is nice to meet you, Peggy.”

She smiled, corrected the mistake and remembered the kind driver’s prediction on that “just right” sort of day, now 44 years ago. She smiled at the ever-sweet memory and she silently counted her blessings as she drove herself home to the prince who still waits for her –  and who knows her true name.

At the Deli Counter

I grabbed a numbered ticket from the dispenser then bobbed to and fro like a robin looking for a worm. I was perusing the long deli case to see what was on sale, what looked good, what I shouldn’t eat, etc. Low numbered grazers took their places close to the counter, while shoppers like me, in for a dozen or so numbers,  stepped back. Shopping carts were parked near the olive island or over by the cheese section where samples were set out.

We needed sliced turkey. We don’t go in for the fancy stuff; no mesquite or honey glazed for us, though they are tempting choices, especially when shopping hungry.

I stood, rocking from foot to foot, checking my ticket stub in case I forgot my number (it happens). I mentally selected my turkey choice. I remember when there were only a few choices of turkey to choose from. Actually, I remember when there were no choices of turkey to choose from, but, I digress.

Another shopper and I struck up a conversation. We both liked the store, the cashiers, the floral department – a good place to shop. She asked my opinion of Lacey Swiss cheese and we noted how busy it was for the time of day.

Talk. Chit chat. Two ladies waiting for thin slice or thick.

Our trail of words turned a corner to Brie. Had I tried the Brie in the cheese section? It was, she said, outstanding, and that she wanted to go over and thank the attendant cheesemonger who had given her a sample last time she was in, which she did right then and there.

My deli companion then told me she was a caretaker for an elderly woman. The woman’s best friend had just passed away. She was terribly sad. Upon tasting the brie, my deli companion said she put some in her cart, along with some apricot jam and specialty crackers and brought them as a treat, a small indulgence, for her charge – and that made all the difference in the woman’s day and in her demeanor.

My number came up.

I waved my ticket like a banner and stepped forward, but, first I gave my kind deli companion a little hug and thanked her. Such chance encounters often become a balm for my soul; reminders of the simple things that make life a wee bit sweeter in sour times. Brie and crackers, thanking the cheesemonger, just taking the time to chat –  a simply remarkable slice of time at the deli counter.

How about you? Any chance encounters that soothed your soul recently?

 

Spring Attire

First, the woody stems swell,


then a tight bud pushes forth and changes,

a petal at a time,

from winter wear into a silken skirt. Stylish Springtime flair..

Tree Peonies.

The epitome of how to dress for tea.

half a mind
to dress up and bow down
to the peony
~ Shiki

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