Ode to Spring and Welcome

Though I complain about the pollen that turns everything an interesting shade of yellow or green and has my nose and sinuses on the run, little can lift my spirits from the quiet contemplative state of winter like the appearance of the blossoms in the spring.  The glimpse of beauty bursting open, seemingly from out of nowhere touches my heart and gives me hope.  If beauty can come from what once looked like an old dead stick, well, you can see where my heart takes that.

In an effort to share just a bit of joy with you all, I offer you these glimpses I’ve had of such beauty in the past few days.

 

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From my Bradford pear–good gravy, I do love those Bradford pears.  They are such wonderful divas, so full of color as the fall comes–their glossy dark green dresses turning all shades of autumn.  So beautiful that one might think them spent until the following fall.  But no, they come out of the slumber of winter all dressed for the dance in their finest ball gowns of white…..

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with a tinge of pink.

 

 

 

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And then’s there’s the Loropetalum.  So dainty and exotic looking all at the same time.  Glorious color everywhere!  She greets me and all who come with her beauty and colorful blooms and leaves.

 

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Oh me.  My very favorites.  The tea olive, offering up the finest scent from its tiny cluster of blossoms.  I once told my Daddy, who had planted the very first one I’d ever met at the corner of the house at Blackberry Flats, that the fragrance from the tea olive was what I hoped Heaven smelled like.  It was love at first sniff.  I have one by each door into my house, and I often finding myself stopping and taking time to smell the tea olives.  Be forewarned, if I’m around one and you are with me, I will make you ask you to smell it.  Because when I experience beauty that touches me to my very core, I might just feel compelled to share it with all who cross my path.  So it is with the tea olive.  We planted one out at the cemetery on Daddy’s first birthday after he left this world.  I love that I can go out there and catch the delicate perfection that is the scent of the tea olive, while my Daddy is experiencing the real thing firsthand.

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My little guy and I visited Wesleyan, my alma mater, last Thursday evening.  The cherry blossoms were in full force, just in time for the opening of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  This group of beautiful trees stands close, tucked away behind Candler Alumnae building.

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As we walked through the trees, I remembered an evening just about twenty-five years ago exactly, when I had made myself a sandwich in my room and walked out to sit on that bench at dusk and contemplate the changes that were about to come in six weeks and some odd days–graduation and all that followed.  It was the “all that followed” that I wasn’t very sure about.  It scared me, but I remember finding peace and hope sitting there, hidden and protected by the umbrella of blossoms.

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Oh and the Geese.  On front campus.  They aren’t the friendliest of sorts, much like other creatures we are starting to see as the weather becomes a little less frigid.  And I realize they aren’t really signs of spring, but they always make me smile and I am reminded that I am not alone.

 

May you all find something that ignites the hope that lies deep within you.  And may it open and blossom just like the buds on the Bradford pear, the grande dame of the seasons herself.

Love and hope to all.

 

Tea Olives and Tales and Teasing

The littles and I went to visit our “Pirate” at my alma mater–her college today.

I am not old enough to have a daughter in college.  Seriously.

When I started school and began first grade, I had Mrs. Partain and Mrs. Crouch.  Most of my time was spent with Mrs. Partain.  Everyday before I left for school, Daddy would tease me and say, “I’m not old enough to have a daughter in first grade.  You need to tell your teacher that.”  And every afternoon when he came home, he asked, “Did you tell your teacher I’m not old enough to have a daughter in first grade?” And everyday I said no.  Until one day in the spring, I surprised him.  I answered, “Yes.”  When he got over the shock, he asked what she had said.  “She laughed.”  Which made him laugh too.

He was 31.  Way younger than this Mama of a college student.

We wandered around the campus.  Do I miss it?  Yes.  I told my oldest last night that I would so “Freaky Friday” her in a heartbeat.  Those were good days.  (Only I probably didn’t recognize it each and every day.)

It’s home.  So many landmarks. So many memories. The fountain I got thrown into every birthday I had my four years there and when I was engaged.  (My friends weren’t crazy or mean–it’s a tradition.) And the place where my husband and I married almost twelve years ago.   The window to my freshman dorm room (turns out it was across the hall from where our resident ghost hung out–I did NOT know that at the time–thank goodness), my sophomore dorm room, and the manhole cover I’d always walk over because I like to hear the echo.  The window to the office of our favorite professor, who was known to poke his head out if he heard us calling.  The building where I learned how to fail and try again.  The pond where I rode the paddleboat with a classmate from India and she read my palm.  I could go on and on with the memories.  They’re all still there.

As we were heading back to our girl’s dorm and maybe for a walk by the pond, it hit me.  That smell. I sniffed again.  Intently.  I turned around.

“What are you doing, ‘Dre?” she asked.

“Tea olive.  I smell tea olive.”  As I turned completely around I saw it.  It was so big I had dismissed it as being a tea olive.  We went over and soaked it in.

Soaking in the smell of the tea olive

Soaking in the smell of the tea olive

There is NO smell I love better on this earth than the smell of a tea olive.  Except for maybe a clean baby smell.  I don’t know, it might be a tie.  I wish I could bottle it up and take it everywhere with me.

Years ago Daddy planted one at the house, Blackberry Flats.  The first time it blossomed and I smelled it, I found myself drawn to it, soaking it in.  I told Daddy that I hoped Heaven smells just like that.  It is the most perfect scent there is on God’s green earth.  Hands down.

Daddy's tea olive at Blackberry Flats

Daddy’s tea olive at Blackberry Flats

When we moved to our house here, there was one planted on the side of the house.  I just noticed it blooming the other day.  The scent hits you first as the blossoms are tiny.  Then you see them.  Precious.  In the midst of all the chaos of the past year, my wise gardener friend brought me one, knowing how much I love them, and planted it where I can smell it from the rocker on my porch.

When Daddy died, we were so fortunate to have a kind and witty and compassionate funeral home director work with us.  She asked about a spray.  We had no idea but knew that Daddy wouldn’t have wanted anything fancy.  She suggested we take cuttings from greenery at the house to the florist to be worked into it.  I remember well that crisp fall day, my Aunt and I out cutting small branches from the cedar that had come from their parent’s farm over thirty years ago and from that tea olive.  It turned out beautifully and it meant so much.  Daddy had planted and tended to both of those trees over the years.

So it was that in March of last year, on Daddy’s birthday, our first without him here, Mama and the crew and I took Daddy’s shovels and went out to the little country church where they both are buried now, and we dug a hole and planted a tea olive there.  It was not an easy task–us and the shovels vs. Georgia red clay.  I spent a whole lot of time getting to know that tea olive last year.  Mama saved her milk jugs, and she or I would haul eight gallons out there twice a week to water it all through the dry summer.  I spent a lot of time out there pouring water into the big bucket with slow draining holes my wise gardener friend had loaned us.  As I poured I talked to Daddy.  The conversations were private, but suffice to say, there weren’t always happy and grace-filled.  There were times I just wanted to lay down out there and give up, I missed him so much.  There were days the sky was filled with angry clouds gathering, but much like me, they were all talk and no rain fell, so still I watered.  I knew how to look for new growth on the tree because my Daddy had taught me, so I was pleased when I saw some, and I pointed it out to him.

I love the smell of a tea olive.  I think I may have to go out there and see how it’s doing.  I haven’t worried much about it with all this rain we’ve had this summer.  And it’s seemed harder to go out there lately.  But if there’s the promise of blossoms and that smell, well, that might just change everything.

I hope the smell will bring comfort to my children just as it has for me.  And maybe my oldest will find herself walking out of her way to sniff the tree that very likely was planted about the time I was there, oh-quite-some-time-ago.  And I think that would be just fine.  It is my hope that she too will take root there and grow and hopefully bless the world as she blossoms into who she is becoming.  I’m already seeing new growth in her too.  And though it’s not easy, what follows, just like the scent of the tea olive, will be downright beautiful and worth every bit of the effort.  I promise.