I’VE LECTURED AND WRITTEN for years about what the garden teaches—life lessons that lately I call its parables. The garden, with its greater backdrop of nature, is my companion, and also my spiritual guide. Tuesday afternoon May 21, 2013, with NPR on in the background reporting tragic loss in Oklahoma, nature added an exclamation point for me to its most powerful teachings of all: Nothing lasts, and nobody knows for certain what’s coming even one tiny moment into the future. Kaboom! Suddenly, the sky outside was falling. What the local hail taught.
Each day in the garden reminds me that I am blessed, even when it is raining ping-ping balls of ice from on high, as in the video clip above. (Try watching it full screen by clicking the Vimeo logo; for perspective, it’s shot through a window and the pond in the distance is more than 25 feet from where I was standing, in awe.)
BEFORE FIVE concurrent weather warnings converged overhead that afternoon to form the hailstones and, eerily, a small tornado, I had been thinking about Oklahomans, including the Shawnee garden club I’d lectured to in 1999. It was the first time I’d ever seen the formidable red clay up close—I think I actually said, “Is that soil?” before I got hold of myself and my manners. Also on my mind was Dee Nash, the “Red Dirt Ramblings” garden writer who always has a smile and a kind word. Even this last week; even among her tears.
“After tornadoes come blue skies,” Dee wrote the other day, sounding the resilience and faith I suspect she gleaned not just from scripture, but also in her own impressive backyard. “Bad things happen,” she said. “Our hearts may break, but it is our courage and spirit in the face of these challenges that matters.”
My neighbors and I were spared anything more than dashed vegetation and washed-out roads and driveways. No, I didn’t like watching helplessly while the garden became a giant pile of chiffonade; didn’t relish carting away four wheelbarrows full of tender growth and fresh leaves from just a single bottlebrush buckeye shrub, or seeing even the linear, tough garlic foliage shredded and ribbon-like, and mulch redeposited far across lawns.
As much as it causes consternation, though, it’s just not important—and what could I have done, anyhow? Much of it will outgrow its misshapen current state of semi-undress in time.
But listening to the news, and watching out the window for those few minutes, I felt as if I were being delivered an especially in-your-face reminder that no matter how mightily we humans wield our big brains, we don’t ever, in fact, have the upper hand. We are not Masters of the Universe.
In fact, some of what our brains have perpetrated is making nature sick, and angry. Things have changed, climate deniers. (I will shut up now re: politics, promise. But really.)
saturday june 1, 2013 plans
MOVING ON: As a gardener, I am a professional improviser and do-over specialist. We’ve had 7ish pounding inches of rain and counting in a few days, besides the hail, and temperatures fell back into the 30s. To try to guarantee you a great visit Saturday [June 1, 2013], as much as anything can be guaranteed, I quickly re-invented the Open Day and giant rare plant sale by Broken Arrow Nursery, into a day with free lectures and the sale and more, like this. There are three other un-hailed-upon gardens open nearby, too. Come say hello, and make a day of local garden visiting and learning. I’ll be the one in the extra-muddy boots who’s still smiling. Hey, at least we finally got some rain, right?