It’s still raining. It’s still cold. The garden is still there and the garden still calls.
It is still hard to get up these days. October suddenly is slapping everyone in the face (actually it is already November 13).
I feel so tired in the mornings! It was dark and the rain was pouring and there was no fresh coffee in the pot. There was too much rain today to go out with my hot cup of coffee and look for the gems in the garden. Because you have to seek them out now. The one or two morning glories growing up an old tomato vine, a tiny dwarf snapdragon growing in the gravel. But it’s so deep dark red. Like wine in a glass. And then there is the squash some bird planted, the two tiny squashes growing to grace some Thumbelina’s porch.
The pink vincas are starting to shrivel up but some are still smiling. The euphorbia still has that lacy gauzy look like the veils on Victorian hats of long ago……. the ring of white Impatiens…. the rabbits are gnawing at them…. But there in the middle part of the garden in two high planters at the sides, are the frothy bowls of pink chrysanthemums. Just those two bowls of flowers, their color and many petaled blooms, create a sort of magic that takes my breath away.
They are pink with touches of coral, apricot, and a kind of rhubarb glow. They are clouds, huge roses that would fit in the palm of Gulliver’s hand. I can see him like a big baby smiling… the grass so green and lush. Greener and lusher than all summer long, while everything around it is fading, crinkling, subduing….But those mums are like musical notes, a small chorus of sprites in the garden, the last blast of sugary summer lollipop happiness.. the startling magical beginning of the dusky sky…. and you might bend down your little head to smell the last of these flowers, into the dark and now cold flower pots you go, there it is, the smell of autumn, wet dirt and fading grapes, the gold and red and green of leaves, the breathing in and out of trees, as though you smell the last of the breath the last of the sighs the last of the laughs mingling with the green grass and creating a new and strange perfume all its own, a chrysanthemum perhaps is autumn breath….
So walking through the park. In and out of this park is the in and out of my days. The tunnel, the Segway, the bridge. The other side is sometimes jarring, dreary, sad or lonely. Sometimes there on the other side I see my little white house with the green shutters. All the things that happened there. Will still happen. And as I walk down the path I sometimes feel like a stranger, a ghost walking into my own front door.
It was cold, colder than cold. But then when the weather is not so fine, is when you see things, hear things, smell things, if you just stop for a while. I felt sick and scared and so alone, not knowing what the doctor would find later that week. I prayed so much my head hurt. I prayed so much I felt my heart would burst.
Walking through the park, the deeply green lush park, I wondered why it was still there, why the trees didn’t just walk away from it all. Why here and there I still saw autumn clematis why the Joe Pye weed looked dead and brown but still beautiful, why the six-foot high asters were still blooming in shades of periwinkle blue. Why the sky didn’t crash down, why there was a vast twitter, that vast twittering as though the sky was singing some song. I didn’t know the sky could sing. And that white candle, the white candle was still there and I don’t know why it was or who put it there.
I smell things in that park that shouldn’t be there. I don’t know where they are coming from. I smell my mother’s perfume, I smell my tears, I smell the stones on the memorial trees. I smell whisky on someone’s breath.
There underneath one of the last weeping willow trees I saw something, like a dozen big balloons— blue, white, beige, and looking closer I see it is that old fat man with the long white hair and beard who I saw earlier in the morning. He moved to the other side of the park to catch the afternoon sun. The “balloons” were the dozens of plastic bags he saved to keep warm at night. He sat there and thought he was far away, that he was safe. I could feel his fear and cold and loneliness… wondering and wondering if someone will discover him and make him go away, or worse, call the police.
Earlier in the day, walking to the bus stop to work, I saw him sitting on the bench near the dip of land.. the one they fill with water and freeze for ice-skating in the winter. He was sitting there like a stone. He startled me so early in the morning. You don’t see many homeless people here. He looked like a big fat Santa without the rich red robes… Santa fallen on hard times… Santa all pooped out… Santa sad and lonely in this troubled world…. His hair was very long and his beard wide… it all had a yellow tinge like linen sitting in a drawer for too long. He was sitting there poor soul, in the park, in this town of rich people who have big warm houses and food in their bellies.. his face tilted towards the sun which was still cold. Rushing to catch the bus to work I silently hoped that he would be allowed to sit there without fear and that the sun would hurry up and get warm. And then what? Where would he go? You can’t eat the sun you can’t curl up with it at night and sleep…..
I’m thinking about the man now as I’m sitting in my sunroom that is slightly cold, and wonder where he is and why didn’t I go home and make something to eat and bring it to him there under the willows…
I realize more and more that I mostly love the park, my garden, the streets, the everything when no one is there, selfishly, wickedly, my own particular greed that lately seems to consume me. And that cold and lonely homeless man was there to remind me right in front of my stupid face, what real sadness is, real loneliness, real hunger, and real despair.
That white candle, I wonder still who put it there, not far from mom’s memorial tree. I walked over to the tree and it looks green and lush and young again after all the rain that fell all weekend long. My own little house almost washing away and the sump pump churning out water furiously and spilling out all this useless water on the lawn and the side and the street…. the birds then discovered it, and drink and bathe and hop around in it as though they are in Baden Baden.
I stood before mom’s memorial tree and talked to her, cried shamelessly in front of her, asking her to ask God to help me, pleading, begging and not caring if the dog walkers or children or teenagers walking by saw me, this pitiful mess of a woman prostrating herself in front of a plant with a big stone in front. It is growing bigger and bigger now, this Korean white star flower tree. It is about fifteen feet tall and five feet wide. The “berries” those red walnut sized berries with the long reddish hairs trailing down… one of the reasons I selected the tree, they are almost gone, just one or two left. The animals ate them all. They’re always gone as soon as they come up. There is another smaller version of this shrub in the park and it’s studded with the red berries. There is freshly shredded bark all around the roots courtesy of the Park District… all neat and clean and tidy.
I don’t know anymore why I write anymore about this park, my walks, the candles in the park, the flowers that come and go and ……. oh last week a big yellow iris was in full bloom in a corner of the park…. like in June…. I attributed it to global warming but then found out there are some fall blooming irises. But this one was too big too yellow and too late.
Then as I wandered on home I heard a rustling in the trees, a swooshing, a great stirring, and suddenly a chorus of finches flew out of the bushes, tiny, tiny, and very fast, almost like exclamation points, and they swooped in and out of the park, and finally flew far away into the pale sky……