maybe, in a week like this one, being mesmerized by a bumblebee is not so much distraction as act of mercy. for the broken heart. for the heart that cannot quite absorb the rat-a-tat of horrors. for the narratives that began to emerge from the bathroom stalls of a nightclub in orlando, where the scenes painted in the tellings were nearly impossible to fathom. bodies piled atop bodies. playing dead. being dead. not knowing if the body atop you was a dead one. finding out later, it was.
you can see why bumblebees and old roses and the draw of the garden — nodding heads that begged for air, for sunlight, amid a stranglehold of weeds — you can see, perhaps, why, amid this particular week, the hours and the sunlight and the shadow, all lured me in. i couldn’t seem to keep away. i’d plant myself in front of screens: i’d watch, i’d click, i’d read. i’d gasp and gasp again. and then, while i had no intention of doing so, i’d find my toes sliding into muddy garden clogs, i’d find my fingers curled around the necks of clippers, and next thing i knew i was waist-high amid the weeds, snipping my way to clearer, purer oxygen.
it’s the power of the garden in a week like this one. when the balm of sun and breeze might root out the nettles that settle in our soul. when i begin to imagine sighs of relief rising up from flocks of old baptisia (otherwise known as “wild indigo”), because i’ve finally paid attention to the fact that they were suffocating under boughs of runaway lilac. when i might have heard a soft round of applause from the out-of-control clematis that begged for fortitude in the form of twine on which to climb, to reach for the clouds. i have a habit (you’ve just witnessed) of assigning voice and charm and personality to the growing things in my garden, at least i do when i begin to notice they’re out there, straining against the forces — the inattentions — that threaten to do them in. i suppose, truth be told, i tend to garden in two speeds: que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be); and ferociously. this week, ferocious was the speed.
whole spells of time — a morning here, an afternoon there — seemed to be swallowed up in the odd postures and contortions of gardening (no wonder stinky potions rubbed into achy joints are a gardener’s best ally). i seemed to lose whole portions of the day, and finally, the week, wrestling, lassoing, chasing after trespassers, calling beds to order.
and then, the occasional mama wren darted by. or the cardinals commenced a game of catch-me-if-you-can. and then the bumblebee. the zaftig bee in coat of velvet stripe. the bee that practically flies in freeze-frame slo-mo, hovering mid-breeze, playing eenie-meenie-minie-mo perhaps, deciding which tuffet of rose she’ll nuzzle into next. that old bee feasted on the rambling rose for a quarter of an hour (or that’s as long as i managed to keep watch, anyway).
i couldn’t shake the sense, somehow, that i was out there playing hooky, delicious hooky. why, i had books to read. sentences to type. piles of paper on my desk called to me.
but i couldn’t break the spell. the spell of taking time to sink my toes into the deliciousness of a summer’s day. a hot and sweaty day. or a cool and cloudy day. didn’t matter. it was only in the act of whole-body immersion, of flinging my old self into the elements — thorns that scratch, dirt that worms its way under fingernails and toenails, sun that beckons freckles to come out of hiding — that i was able to find a way to untangle the brokenness of my heart, to put a breath of pure soft air back into my lungs.
of course i know — full well — that it’s all just distraction. but somehow, deep in the ministrations of gardener to garden, of human hands to tender growing things, i found a way to exercise an urge to heal, to fix, to chase away the hurt, the ugliness, that had descended on the planet. day after day, hour upon hour, there comes darkness in forms we can’t imagine. and so we’re left with the scant few things we know, to bring back light. to sow seeds of tenderness and love. of holiness, perhaps.
to lose a day, or a week, upside down or sideways in the garden, is to find a thread that just might stitch us close to whole again. or at least steady us enough to tumble forward. till the next bee buzzes along. and once again we’re swept away by wonder, antidote to that which leaves us broken.
what’s your healing thread, when you find yourself in tatters?
“. . . wonder, antidote to that which leaves us broken.” Oh, yes. Thank God for nature’s healing balm.
Bee balm — love your clever title. (Would you be even remotely surprised that not five minutes before I pulled out my laptop to read this tender post, I was talking to Jeff on the very topic of bee balm?? In this particular instance, I was referring to monarda. But still. I love our many little synchronicities.)
With men and women of good will worldwide, my heart, too, has been down in my boots. How can hatred and violence of this magnitude do anything but cast us to our knees? While we’re on our knees, praying for lives lost and hearts torn asunder, we may as well lose ourselves in garden work. (I’m not quite healed enough, ankle-wise, to pull weeds or do any planting yet, but I AM able to drop down low to capture a photo of a sweet flower face, another way to commune with nature…)
Like the plants in your garden, all we can do when sorrow overshadows us is strain against the forces and reach for the light.
yes, yes, that title sort of worked itself out. one word led to another, and suddenly, the balm i was upon was bee balm, known as monarda to the gardener’s among us. and while i’d felt the tug all week that i was somehow playing hooky, shirking my essentials, i eventually realized that some deep down force knew better than i did.
while my ankle isn’t hobbling me, my knee is at this moment. so my contortions in the garden are particularly interesting, bent without bending a certain limb.
the added sorrow of yesterday’s gunning down of the brilliant, young, and whole-hearted MP in the north of england, that really set me back. and that’s when the bee buzzed along……
i’ve not gotten out there yet today. as in-house duties have tethered me. but oh, i feel the pull……
thanks for bringing your words of balm to this equation. xoxox
Balm is the perfect word for what we need this week after so much gaping in horror at what is out there in the world.
dear pam, welcome to the chair, as we call it. or the old table, the virtual table. balm is an onomatopoeic word, almost, in that it practically sounds like what it does….it soothes. rubs its anointing potions into where we’re rubbed raw and aching….
The aroma which surprised and surrounded me as I read this was overwhelming. Beautiful. Touches all of me Thank you
Andrea Lavin Solow
bless you. i love that chair posts now come with built-in smell. xoxoxox
My Tom, too, finds solace in the garden when his heart and/or mind are whirling, but it is his vegetable garden rather than flowers. It’s silence for me that helps … but my darling neighbor has taken up working on old cars and for the last hour I’ve been hearing nothing but an overgrown dentist drill as he grindsgrindsgrinds off the old paint. My teeth are grinding, too.
Truly, I don’t know how to handle the every day news anymore. Fred Rogers used to say his mother would tell him when something awful happened, “Look for the helpers.” There are good people in the world, helpers … you are one of the most very wonderful. xoxo
oh, dear, the thought of that dentist drill disturbing your piece has me wanting to march to your house with a big muzzle! for the power tools. the only sound i hear at this very moment is the morning chirp of all the birds. it’s layers and layers of sound, and in the garden, the occasional whoosh of the breeze. in the world that is ours, the silence you love is rarer and rarer, and thus more and more cherished. you have to work to find silence.
i wish i had vegetables to show for my small labors. in a yard with no sun, tomato plants just laugh at me.
i have heard fred rogers mama’s line, and oh the helpers we heard from this week. the mile of blood donors who lined up, and later in the week when we heard details from the police who rushed in, who feared bombs were involved but held their stations anyway, intent on getting survivors to safety.
i find sanity here at the table, surrounded by our island of gentle souls. xoxoxo (i found much solace too, dear N, poring over your psalter…..i nearly wrote about the psalter, but i am still diving in….)
I just love that bumblebee! I have been planting flowers, herbs, tomatoes, etc. in my yard and find that really soothing. I also have a specific park I love to visit to be in the gardens. Being outdoors somewhere quiet… Other solace comes from reading, artwork, music, puppies, daydreaming about a better time ahead.
dear snowdroplets, i love that bumblebee too. and i was mesmerized, and i will be again, next time i bump into her. watching her practically hover in mid-air, taking her time, choosing her landing pad. thank you for wandering by “the chair,” and may this quiet sunday morning bring you the solace we all so thirstily seek….
I love the word ‘balm’ for for what we all need this week!! Your post reminds me of a poem I heard recently: “The Way It Is” by Wm. Stafford. The last line – “You don’t ever let go of the thread” is like your question to us around the table. I don’t ever let go of an angel’s voice speaking to me when I was in a coma, and the one who spoke to me as a child. This week was hard to bear, but I believe angels guided some home, and others of us to heal from the tragedies of this week.
oh, dear lou…….and now you have shared a wisp of that angel’s voice with us, and we too are touched by that knowing. i love that that’s your thread, your lifeline…….i am going to find “the way it is.” and with all my heart, thank you for bringing that radiant light to the table……i am so glad the angel is and was there for you…..
Oh dear, Barbara, I got tears reading your response!! You are such a tender, sensitive, deep soul with such a loving spirit!! I’m grateful if my words bring a bit of light in these times that can be so full of darkness! Yours brought balm to our hurting hearts!! My heart is broken up a little more for the LGBT community and for the parents of 2 y/o Lane, and all parents who have taken or will take their children to Disneyland. I’m asking angels to guard them all!!
well, sweetheart, it’s not every day that someone at the table talks about being in a coma and the angels that came to her. it breaks my heart that you were in that coma, and it covers me in joy that you so triumphantly march forward. and share your wisdom, all along the way….