Blooming Where Planted

These asters are pinker than the typical bluer blooms.

After weeks of drought, September’s rains finally arrived long enough to give the sugar maples their first blush. The temperatures dropped in time to provide plenty of dew for bejeweling the spiders’ webs that decorated undisturbed corners of my forgotten gardens. New England asters that made themselves at home in my garden last year bloomed right on time. And gradually, very gradually I have begun to feel better.

What this long haul has taught me is to appreciate the positive and to count on a completely different set of symptoms tomorrow. When a system like mine is driven by a crazily capricious autoimmune pilot, life becomes a lesson in impermanence. Just when I think I’ve sent one unpleasant condition packing, here it comes again like the rejected suitor who refuses to take “no” for an answer. Fortunately, each time they return, they are less enthusiastic than the last time. And each time, I am fortified with better armament.

Even though my time outside is limited, I try to walk every day and take a moment to visit the flowers on my porches and vegetables in the gardens. The fact that they’ve carried on without me with only minimal effort from my husband is both humbling and comforting. We gardeners sometimes think we are indispensable with our planting guides and to-do lists, but Nature always has the final say in that regard. There have been many happy accidents and appearances that would not have occurred if I’d been diligent with weeding and pruning.

The volunteer asters mentioned above have flourished this year in particular, with multitudes of black-eyed Susans and ironweed popping up in unexpected places. An entire army of Autumn Beauty sunflowers came up from one little tortured survivor last year, and lined our driveway to the delight of the goldfinches. A month ago I found an Ageratina altissima, the notorious white snakeroot that led to Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s premature death, perkily blooming amidst my butterfly weed. I welcomed the sight since it is a beneficial native for pollinators despite its bad reputation.

There is still a long road to health, but through a slow summer and beginning autumn I have learned to let go of expectations, worry and control (mostly). There is peace (this year’s Word) to be found in a good night’s sleep, negative lab results, a beautiful chrysanthemum from a neighbor or visit from the occasional fluttering monarch. Finding a new flower friend in the mess and chaos of the world is a sign that confirms my efforts to be happy where I am in the moment.


6 thoughts on “Blooming Where Planted

  1. “Lessons in impermanence” and “happy in the moment.” Related concepts, I think, and both have to do with things easier said than done. As you say, it is so easy to think we are in charge: the garden is always metaphor. Nature only lets us think we are in control sometimes. I am very glad that you feel some slight improvements in your health, but I suspect it’s still a struggle. Those asters obviously are cheering you on — what a splendid fall color!

  2. Glad to hear you are getting better, even if slowly. Right now we are happy not to be among the many northerners who moved to Florida to escape winter. Still hoping life will get back to something closer to the way it used to be for us all.

    1. As do I, Mike. Or I’d settle for anybody’s normal healthy life at this point. I still enjoy the different seasons, and while I do love the ocean, I prefer to dwell at a respectful distance.

  3. Shirah Eliashiv

    Tamara, I’ve been following your posts and deeply affected by your challenges and insights. I may be living a very different life from when we first met, but there are always the common denominators of nature, gardening, and the desire to live a meaningful life in the face of external factors and health challenges.
    I hope you have an easy winter, surrounded by sources of comfort, even while your garden lies dormant.

    1. It’s great to see you here, Shirah! Thanks for following along all these years, and I wish you and your family continued health and happiness in your part of the world.

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