My friend's housekeeper occasionally cleans house for her. If her
housekeeper is there when I visit, and the house is in the orderly
disorderly array of being cleaned, then we meet out in her
garden. It's an immaculate garden, well manicured, tended with
meticulous loving care, terraced into the sloping land
behind her house, each terrace held in place with stout redwood beams.
Her garden has roses, tomatoes, limes, and various other
citrus trees which do well in this climate. Porous pots
and wind chimes provide simple yet tasteful adornments and
ornamentation. There's a group of clay ducklings poised in mid-stride
over some ivy. There's outdoor chairs placed just so, here and
there, to afford what a garden's best at affording: just being here,
and enjoying just being here.
When I arrive, I see the housekeeper through the screen door. She's
standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. So, without knocking, I
proceed around the back out into the garden.
The garden is
immaculate as usual. It's also empty. There's no one here. Assuming my
friend is inside the house, I wait for her to come out, enjoying the
soil and citrus aromas. Five minutes pass. No one comes out of the
house. I stay where I am, standing alone, enjoying the empty garden,
enjoying the emptiness ...
Then I notice a leaf moving on one of the bushes on a terrace. Only one
leaf. At first I assume it's just a languid breeze. The entire garden
is still, yet one leaf is moving on one bush on one of the terraces.
Granted I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but soon enough I realize
if it's a breeze, the entire bush and other bushes around it would also
be moving. Squinting slightly at the bush trying to figure out this
anomaly, I think to myself "Curiouser and curiouser ..."
(as Alice in Wonderland may have said). I walk closer to get a better
view of the solitary moving leaf, and that's when I see her, crouched
down behind the bush, totally hidden from my view by it. She's working
the ground around a lime tree behind the bush, and the way her body
folds itself, part kneeling, part crouching, gets her completely
screened from my view by the bush. Her elbow, moving as she works,
bumps the bush ever so slightly, just enough to shake one solitary
She's wearing old clothes appropriate for gardening, a floppy white sun
hat on her head, and thick, well worn gloves to protect her hands.
Down on one knee, she's attending to the lime tree. I
triangulate myself and my line of sight with the foliage
so I can see her behind the bush which has almost perfectly hidden her
ninety nine something year old body from view.
I call out to her but she doesn't hear me. So instead I stand here,
fascinated, watching her as she works. She's tilling the soil around
the lime tree with a trowel and a gardening fork. She's putting
everything she's got, all of the strength in her frail frame, into it -
jab the soil, turn it around, jab the soil, turn it around. Every so
often she picks up lumps of soil and stones, brings them up to her eyes
to get a clearer view and to distinguish the one from the other, then
she crumbles the soil lumps and replaces the loose soil around the
tree, and discards the stones into a bucket.
The scene, the setting, is pure
I'm in observation mode. I'm watching a master at work, a
master gardener, and I know it. I know it's a
to be here and observe.
She breathes audibly with each exertion. Soon all the ground around the
bush is aerated, then she sprinkles some fertilizer over it and works
it in with her fingers. Then she gathers up all the loose leaves and
other waste material and puts it in the bucket. There's nothing out of
place when she's done. She rakes the ground under the lime tree with a
hand size garden fork. The lines she leaves in the dirt under the lime
like charcoal meandered by a fine artist onto a thick
Bristol card stock drawing.
Finally she stands up. That's when, for the first time, she sees me
standing here, smiles, waves, and greets me. I applaud, clapping like
mad, calling out "Bravo! Bravo!" again and again, entirely
appropriately having just watched a riveting command performance, a
Rhapsody in a
Garden (as George Gershwin may have said).
I offer her my hand for support as she comes down the steps from the
slope. She doesn't need my support but she takes my hand anyway. We sit
on a redwood beam, talking. She speaks about someone calling her to
tell her she's worried about the state of the economy. Her response was
"What good does worrying do you? Does worrying ever change anything? I
It's OK the way it is.".
We speak about children, about one of mine who recently started classes
about one of hers who recently started transformation on
It's that normal with her. It's that easy
with her. It's
when the truth is told, that she's the
Mother of Transformation.
It's time to go. I hug her - gently. She turns and kisses my
cheek. I tell her I love her. She replies "I know you do, and I love
I turn around one more time for one last look at her through the screen
door. She's still wearing the floppy white sun hat on her head,
watching the evening news on a counter top television set. The house is
immaculate. The garden is immaculate. An evening breeze rustles the
leaves of the lime tree, wafting the clean smell of citrus everywhere.