Garden Muse: Seeds and Sorrow; Fruits and Joy


Garden

Garden

I am excited for summer. I love the bounty of summer crops. Right now we are growing radishes, spinach, lettuce, corn, carrots, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, oregano, basal, zucchini, and peas. I have a flower garden growing as well. We planted everything from seed so it is exciting to see it come to life. Trusting in a seed to feed you is a leap of faith. It provides me with such a sense of peace to know that I am capable of growing my own food. We had a salad tonight which had spinach, salad greens, and radishes from our garden.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”- Marcus Tullius Cicero

Radish

Radish

“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

My mother and father were avid gardeners. If you look at this photo closely, you will see just a glimpse of the garden of my childhood home. I am the child to the far right on the edge of the pool. If you walk around the pool to the left, you would find a vegetable plot filled with raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, plum trees, apple trees, grape vines, boysenberry trees, vegetables, and many other flowers and garden goodies. In fact, my father made us dandelion soup once. My mother got mad at him for serving it to us as kids. It is very good for you.

Refresh -- Childhood Garden

Refresh — Childhood Garden

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” – Alice Walker

Beauty Bee -- Blackberry Bush

Beauty Bee — Blackberry Bush

I found out recently that my mother’s funeral will finally be scheduled. We have been waiting in limbo since January. She passed away on Christmas Eve (Read this if you want to know the details). I have had a hard time with this loss.  I will have to allow myself to feel it. It is a different kind of pain now, as it is obtuse, reaching its giant ocean size arms around me as if orbiting into space. The pain was acute in the beginning when she first passed away. Each acknowledgement of it was an arrow in my heart, made of thousands of acute angles — stabbed straight into my heart. Now the tiny arrows have opened into a more giant obtuse pain, something that expands and retracts — expands and retracts — expands and retracts.

My mom, Betty with her beautiful red hair and amazing smile

My mom, Betty with her beautiful red hair and amazing smile

This photo was taken in 2003 on Christmas Eve. My father passed away in December of 2003. This photo was taken at my best friend's house.

This photo was taken in 2003 on Christmas Eve. My father passed away in December of 2003. This photo was taken at my best friend’s house.

” A mother is beyond any notion of a beginning. That’s what makes her a mother.” – Meghan O’Rourke

Now I am a mother and as I grieve the loss of my own, I am in the full blossom of being a mother to a three-year old.

My Beautiful Benjamin dancing to the garden muse

My Beautiful Benjamin dancing to the garden muse

“All love stories are tales of beginnings. When we talk about falling in love, we go to the beginning, to pinpoint the moment of freefall.” – Meghan O’Rourke

Sitting on a bridge in my childhood garden. My parents created this beautiful garden from scratch.

Sitting on a bridge in my childhood garden. My parents created this beautiful garden from scratch.

My mother’s ashes are on my mantle. Click here to read more about that and how I finally took down the Christmas lights to clear some space for my own healing and mourning process. I can not put into words just yet what is swirling inside me about finally having to let go by burying her ashes at Arlington. Her final wishes were to be buried with my father at Arlington National Cemetery. He passed away in 2003 and was cremated. My mother made arrangements for them to be buried together in the same plot. Her name will be on one side of the tombstone and my father’s will be on the other. They will be laid to rest together. My father was a veteran of the Korean War. Read this to learn more about my father, Inchon, and his gardens. He was a member of the Frozen Chosen.  Read this to learn more about why I miss him (this essay is one of my favorite things I have ever written, as it honors who he was as a man, husband, father, and veteran).

My dad stopping to smell the roses on my wedding day

My dad stopping to smell the roses on my wedding day

Read this if you want to read an essay about having to say goodbye to my father and get married to my soulmate.

I have to assume that burying my parents will be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but it also has the power to be one of the most beautiful ceremonies of my life. I can only imagine the fertile soil this experience will provide in the garden of my life. I should think about the seeds I want to plant in it. Love, Respect, Hope, Joy, and of course sorrow. You can not get around sorrow. It is the fertilizer in life.

Garden Angel

Garden Angel

Just as Kahlil Gibran said, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked…”

On Joy and Sorrow

By: Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. 

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

So, I plant the seed and water this fertile soil with my tears and allow God’s love and my love for my parents to be the sunshine.

Lively Lettuce Leaf

Lively Lettuce Leaf

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” ― Claude Monet

Read this if you want to learn more about my mom and how magical she was to me as a child and how deeply I loved her — how deeply I love (present tense) her.

Stars

Stars

Life goes on, but grief stands still. I have learned that I am moving through the process of grief and accept it is on my own time. I accept that I have to feel everything and allow the moisture from this pain to provide the rain for my inner garden to grow.

The Red Rose of St. Therese is in blossom in my garden.

The Red Rose of St. Therese is in blossom in my garden.

In May of 2011, I had a close call with losing my mother. She had a serious bladder infection. She ultimately overcame it, but my heart felt giant as I was so close to her death and the anticipation of losing her. Read this if you want to read about that experience. When she did pass away, it was a bladder infection that was the cause of death.

3 Stars

3 Stars

“Even hundredfold grief is divisible by love.” ~Terri Guillemets

“Sorrow makes us all children again — destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My son makes me whole.

My son makes me whole.

Change Creates Beauty


© Megan Oteri

November is my favorite month, even though it is a very sad month for me as well.  Change came sweeping into my life October 2003 when my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  It was sudden; it was swift.  November was a huge month, with her arms stretched out wide, encircling my entire life as I knew it.  It was a month of change, of acceptance,  of denial, of love, of hope, of life.  Then December came and November was gone, into the dark of the night of winter, leaving all traces of autumn.

November in North Carolina is a colorful month full of dark browns, cool red hues, and a collage of warm buttery colors.  I do love November in North Carolina.  Perhaps it is because November in North Carolina is so very far away from the 2003 November of Wyoming, when my heart stood still — stood thick, like molasses stuck in quicksand — sticky and sinking.

Change happens.  It is just inevitable.  Nature tempts us each year with metaphor and grace; her cycles a lesson.  I no longer just see color, I smell it.  It contains a small pea of memory.  This pea multiplies and muses me; November is a symphony of this music.  I breathe a little easier once past December 10 or is it 11?  Not so sure anymore, as the years have passed — almost a decade, minus one equals nine.  My father passed in the middle of the night. My mother held his hand as he died.  My sister begged to know the next day if the angels came.  My mother said, “No.  His pulse quickened and he was gone.”  My mother is a stoic one.  She is matter of fact and to the point.  Something I love and also something I get annoyed with at the same time.  She is a New Yorker, born and bred, with an adolescent Illinois backdrop.

Honest speak — we didn’t think my dad would die before my mom.  In fact, my mom had brain tumors diagnosed and brain surgery three years before the October tree began to lose its leaves.  I had been planning on my mom dying before my dad, in quite dramatic expectation.

Anyway, here I wanted to just post some lovely fall photos and I get all deep and depressing.  I don’t care. In fact, I admit I love to soak in the deep water of death, for I have rinsed my hands and wiped my own tears in it.   There is a beauty to death.  Something I am not afraid of, and at times I am almost callous about.  I have had several close friends lose their parents recently.  They are a mess (understandably).  I feel like a veteran, no longer a rookie on the pain of death.

Light Tree

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.”
― Octavia E. Butler

For even in death, there is renewal.  When the tree loses its last leaf — a relief, for now it can rest. Growth will come, spring will awaken in spirit.

I often would pass messages to my father after his death through the birds. If a cardinal would appear, it always meant same day delivery, for cardinals were always my fathers favorite bird.  Well actually, I thought the cardinal was my dad. So I guess that would make it express delivery.

Fence

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

© Megan Oteri

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Reflection

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”
― Eckhart Tolle

I am rather smitten with this photo. I just adore it.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa

The photo of the leaf above is my favorite photo.  I have so many photos I have taken, but sometimes I just hit it out of the park with the bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth.  (My dad loved baseball — he would appreciate my hyperbole metaphor and I think he would love this photo too).

It is the darkness that makes the light shine brightest.