Most young children compete with their siblings for their parent’s affection. My sisters’ and my rivals, however, were my father’s plants. He adored lush ferns and bright colors, lipstick red summer geraniums and the bold purple of miniature lobelia. Our lawn was golf-course green and weed-free (and he was not above employing a few chemicals to keep it that way). Watering, fertilizing, clipping and weeding were his sports arena, his temple and his escape.
When I ultimately had my own home, yard and children, I discovered that growing things, digging around in the soil, was a balm for me, too.
husband’s job as a journalist.
The place we call our “constant home” is on a lake in the Adirondacks to which my family has returned for five generations each summer. It was there, in a simple ceremony of poems and prayers, that we planted the tree under the spread of a giant fir. As I covered the roots with loamy soil, I felt the barest flicker, a hope that my battered heart might begin to heal.
I’ve not yet decided how I will honor my mother, but I know what I will do to memorialize the man who loved to put his hands in the dirt. I will plant a White Birch, the lavender pink bark etched with whorled black lines in the shape of God’s eyes. We will place it near the shores of the lake he loves, by the dock where he spent his afternoons. And when I cover the roots of the tree with earth, I will know that a little piece of my father will live on there too.
This blog was published in Martha Stewart Living Magazine, April 2013, pg. 170