Archive for June, 2006
The Bush Tit family has vacated. It all happened so quickly. One minute they’re rushing to and from the “sock”, feeding each other and the kids and the next they’re gone. For weeks the hanging sock was a hive of activity, and it frequently vibrated the Ceanothus branch it was attached to, the leaves shivering and the sock rocking with whatever happens inside a cramped tube nest with a family of four. A few days ago the front yard was filled with the fever pitch of anxious parents and fledglings who emerged from the sock hole all at once – so tiny I could barely see them clinging to the top of the sock. By the end of the day they were all gone. I could hear them twittering in the dense canopy around the house but the sock nest hung limp and empty. I went out to peer in the front door of the sock. I felt bereft. My babies were grown up and gone. I had empty nest syndrome.
I was sitting in a garden the day my mother died, a garden full of friends and roses and laughter and food. It was a wedding party, held at the home of friends whose house sits on the inner edge of San Francisco Bay, perched slightly above the sandy beach at Alameda where Oakland’s remnant wetlands and estuary meet the bay. Among this garden’s particular charms is a large magnolia tree, the grandiflora species, in full bloom. There is also a magnolia in my mother’s garden, planted when the house was built, and which now spreads part way across the roof and shades the flower beds. It is one of the two survivors among all the original trees in this garden, the apple tree long gone, and the maple a mere memory. The silk tree, or Albizia, stands leafless this spring, its once green brocaded boughs that lilted in the afternoon breeze poke stiff and leafless into the summer sky.
A week after my mother died I went walking in a very different garden, that endless carpet and canopy of deep emerald embedded in the heart of New York City. Central Park in June is a green heart pulsing with joy. Children in school games crowd the green swards, yelling and happy. Joggers clog the pathway around the Reservoir; walkers walk their happy dogs, plastic gloves in hand; families at picnic, couples in love, tourists and cameras abound. I sought out a place I had been to before in a different season, the Shakespeare Garden. It meanders up a small rise, it’s circling borders filled with, supposedly, the flowers called out in the Bard’s immortal prose: woodbine, musk rose, eglantine…. And there indeed were bouquets of white musk roses in glorious bloom, and thyme abundant in sunlit glades. No massed borders here of searing colors and architectural aplomb. Just simple small flowers in modest hues with a heavenly sweet and subtle perfume.
Returning to California after a week of respite from the duties and cares of a family death, to resume the churning pace of everyone’s complicated lives, our friends from New Orleans came to visit for a few days–a visit planned long ago. When they wanted to spend the day at Pt. Reyes I nearly declined to go. The long drive, my endless fatigue, listlessness all combined to discourage me. But I went anyway. Our destination was a small inlet on the less-traveled north side of the peninsula. Here a wetland, tucked among the cow-grazed hillsides of the treeless plains, fed into a small lagoon nestled among massive dunes by the sea. The day was clear and warm with no fog or wind, the nearly constant weather of this seaward finger of land. And when we got out of the car and began down the dirt path to the shore, I saw that the landscape was a mass of flowers and purple feathered grasses. The big yellow lupine scented the air like sweet peas and bird song punctuated the low hum of a coastal breeze. Above the wetland rushes marsh hawks soared and spiraled in play, and when we reached the deep sapphire of the lagoon waters, the smell and sound of the sea close by, a silent undulation of pelicans creased the sky above us.
I walked and was light hearted again.