Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gardens and Chrysalis

We have a lot of small gardens around our house.  They require a lot of maintenance and work but they are lovely.  One of the nice things about my marriage is that both my wife and I love flowers and plants, and enjoy gardening.  Although I have to say I think she enjoys the results more than the work we both willingly have to do to have them. Still, it’s something we both enjoy doing together and appreciate each others' efforts.  I don’t know about Karen, but I’m trying to figure out why I love gardens so much.  Maybe some of it is my UK heritage, or maybe it is because my grandfather was a florist and a greenhouse man. Maybe it is because my mother had me work with her as she raised lilacs, peonies, fruit, and vegetables.  As a teenager I hated to have to spend so much time wearing gloves, mucking in soil, planting and pruning, but as an adult, and now that she is gone, I wish I could relive every minute we spent together doing that.

I think one of the things I like about gardens is that unlike children that are growing into adults, who are growing and moving away, while the plants may sleep in the fall, they also always return in full bloom in the spring.  As the plants mature, they still stay here rooted in my gardens.  The kids are rooted here too but as they grow and experience their success, their visits are not as constant or consistent.  It gives me great joy when they come home because no matter when it is, it is like spring to me.  It is like our gardens came alive again.

My favorite garden is the butterfly one in the backyard. Karen installed this one and we have let it roam.

Some nights at dusk I move a chair and go out there to just read, think, breathe, or be.  What I like most about visiting the butterfly garden, aside from the scent of the lemon grass, is watching every spring as the caterpillars go through chrysalis.  I get very excited when they emerge from cocoons and become beautiful creatures with wings to fly. 

Chrysalis is defined as the time a moth or butterfly is at the stage of growth and change when it is turning into an adult and is enclosed in a hard case.  When I sit by the butterfly garden I often think about the nature of change.

I haven’t always been comfortable with change. There was a long time that I expected everything to align itself to my plans. I have recently been learning that nothing in life happens according to plan. No one plans to lose a job, get a divorce, a house ruined, be diagnosed with an illness, or experience loss from the death of a loved one. I am fortunate that I have only experienced a couple of these things. Things like this happen to people though and I think we have to be able to absorb it, accept it, and not let it destroy us.

I planned to be an executive my whole life and retire comfortable somewhere near some water and woods. I didn’t plan to get Parkinson’s disease, but it happened, and I can’t change that. What I can do and what I have done is transform myself and keep moving ahead. I learned that change can be good. I took the opportunity to create a new identity. It is one I rather like more than my old identity. Now I write, create, spend a lot more time with my kids when they are here, and build fountains and gardens for my wife. I can’t remember the last time it was that I wore a suit or worried about what was sitting on my desk when I took the train to my office. Sometimes I miss working the way I used to, and the people I worked with, but it’s a nice feeling when you get a chance to pursue your passions, and reconnect with the world around you.

When I first found out about my disease, I took to bed for three days. I thought my life was over, and then with the encouragement of my daughter, I woke up and decided that I had a whole lot more living to do. I was not going to live my life this way. I still have my moments of frustration and anger, but I search incessantly for joy which is all around me to be found. I lived to live with unending change.

I have a dear friend who lives in the Seattle area but is moving to southern California. From pictures I have seen, she is a beautiful woman. I have never met her in person but we correspond quite a bit. We don’t agree on everything, especially religion (I’m a believer and she is not), but we do agree on the importance of art, music, and literature. We, I think, both believe in the power of love, and in the joy of what we do.  She is a brilliant artist and every time I see something she has created I realize there is something special there. She had a hard life coming up. Some of the things she has shared are horrible, but nevertheless she has prevailed. Not long ago she had experiences and started the process of going through some changes that I believe will bring her great joy. She met a man and fell in love. He seems like a very good man. I am a sucker for a good love story. That she is finding joy gives me great joy. Chrysalis.

With that I will sign off and share with you a poem I wrote about Carolyn one evening in the butterfly garden. While it is about her, a lot of people might be able to identify with it because it is really about changes that happen in all of our lives.


As the world turns
Moving closer to the sun
She shakes off
Those old tubers
That root her down

Time for a change

Time to purge one life
And move on
To another
A better one

Time to head south
Time to move to the waves
And better sun

Time for a change

Time to cast off
A hardened
And restricted heart
To follow love

Time for a change

Time to break out
Of a rotten wooden case
And in doing so
Find new wings

Time to cast off past things
That hold us down
And see the sun

Time to fly