Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)
TITLE: A Widow's Garden
By Birdie Courtright
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Strangely, it was more a comfort to me in its abandoned state. I wasn’t the only thing on the planet that had no strength left to live. Forget the fragrance of life, life stinks. No more colorful bouquets, no more quenching showers from my watering can.
Whether the garden lived or died was the only thing I had control of during those first few weeks of widowhood. I wanted the emptiness I felt inside to reverberate through the universe. I had no tears, no will, and no appetite. I never wanted to smell another flower as long as I lived. Day after long bitter day I stood silently at the bay window and watched them all die, one by one.
When everything green turned to crispy brown, I stopped watching altogether. It seemed more fitting to listen to the grandfather clock ticking away my minutes with dead, dreary stalks scratching at the glass. No more little robins roosting on the statuaries, no more soothing green canopy clinging to the arbor. It was a finished work, as dead as my husband, as dead as my soul, as dead as dead can be.
Beyond the bay window, precious hours working side by side in silence became a vapor of memory too precious to relive. Maybe someday I would longingly look back on those treasured hours with fondness, but not yet. Now they were a deep part of the ache that consumed every waking hour.
Had a year really passed? I grabbed for another lifeless stalk and winced at the pain as a thorn pierced through the protective layer of my glove. The statuaries sold in the estate sale, and the arbor was torn down and cleared away by a neighbor kid needing a few extra bucks. I stodgily picked at the dead brush, until my back ached from the effort, and my tea glass ran dry. Determined to leave no trace of happiness behind, I’d worked well into the evening. An empty canvass, that’s what I wanted; bare ground and vacant pots. I brushed the damp dirt from my knees and called it a day.
Standing at the bay window the next morning, I surveyed the emptiness and made a decision. The first one in a year, I felt competent to make. I would begin again. There would be no one to ask opinions of, no one to pound the nails or cut the wood—would it be so awful to create a new garden, one that held no other imprint but my own? “God” I whispered, “let’s go to the nursery.”
Over the next two months, I worked furiously in the dirt. A pond, a stone path lined with forget-me-nots, lambs ear, thyme and trailing morning glories brought texture and color. An array of soft sweet blossoms unfurled each morning, begging the attention of butterflies and hummingbirds. Soon, the garden was teeming with life. Lady bugs, frogs and an occasional lizard stopped in to sample the ambience of my green thumb. It wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t working alone.
I had a constant companion who listened intently as I poured out life’s little problems while working fastidiously on my knees. The beds that had echoed my grief a year ago became the meeting place for God’s gracious moments of fellowship. On mud caked knees I surrendered the emptiness of my heart, to the Master Gardner. Slowly but surely new life began to push its way to the surface. As I surveyed the artistry from the bay window, I found what I could not have designed alone, a resplendent expression of peace.
There are still times when the absence of his face behind mine in the bathroom mirror feels overwhelming. It’s then I hear the cooing of the doves beckoning me to the garden, where I am reminded that there is another who waits to fill my heart.
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