an insect’s view

“Nature will bear the closest inspection.  She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

I never could resist nature’s invitations.  This beauty, seen from an insect’s point of reference, is Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red,’ according to the label placed in the ground nearby at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens.

Isn’t that some lovely winter color?

Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ was not familiar to me, nor was any other Penstemon, that I could recall.  When I arrived home, I looked it up on the internet and decided its bloom is pretty ordinary, not show-stopping like the winter foliage.  But then, none of the pictures of its flower spikes are taken from the insect’s-eye position.  It may well be that the blossoms are more gorgeous than I can conceive now.

If I were going to be staying here for longer than a few months more, I’d probably be tempted to plant a few of these beauties, just to enjoy their technicolor display when everything else is dormant and draped in garments of sepia, brown, buff, rust, and grey.

It seems lately that I’m saying that a lot in my mind — and aloud:  “If we were going to be staying.”  Sigh.  I so long to put down some roots.  And if you had told me that I’d want to settle down even five years ago, when the wanderlust was still active, I would not have believed you.

What has been particularly frustrating as I plan for this year’s garden is that I do not know precisely when we will leave.  It could be August or September.  It might even be December or January.  And if the job market is uncooperative, we might still be here a year from now.

I cannot know all of the variables in advance.  Of course, this is the common condition of all of humanity; it’s simply that routine and habit tend to blind us to this reality, so that we can get comfortable and forget it for the majority of our lives.  That comfortable and selective amnesia serves a purpose, too, allowing us to focus our energies on other things.  Lately, I wish I could forget, as well, along with the crowd.

As the moment of our departure approaches, I feel paradoxically more and more attached to my little garden and its particularities.

Who will care for it when I’m gone?  No one.  It is slated to be returned to grass.  And not even nice grass.  The kind of lawn-ish turf that is mostly composed of weeds and is mowed down to a brutal two-inch-tall crewcut once a month by the kamikaze, mower-riding teenager paid to do yard maintenance by the landlord.

The first haircut last year had me in tears, since F. and I had enjoyed the tall, unkempt meadow during the already hot days of April and May, laying in it and staring up through layers of pristine dogwood blossoms to the blue dome beyond, feeling the Earth’s cool caress on our backs, with long stems of grass tickling the periphery of our vision and the scent of crushed dogtooth violets rising around us.

If you are going to let a natural meadow spring up in your backyard, then let it grow.  Do not shear it off to the ground so that it withers and turns yellow and white in the dry heat.  This is pure cruelty… brought about by ignorance perhaps, but cruelty nonetheless.

I cried for those lost idyllic days and for all the poor wild violets, missing their faces.

Now I’m not crying, but I am sometimes worried.  Wherever we end up, will there even be violets?  What about space for a little garden?  Will it be an ugly place?  There are so very many ugly places in this world… and many of them are rental units.

Whenever these thoughts assail me, I try to remember that wherever I’ve been, there has always been beauty for those willing to find it.  If nothing else, I may have to get in close and take “an insect view of the plain.”  But I will always find it, I’m convinced.

Finding beauty is an undervalued talent comprised of equal parts willingness, curiosity, an open mind, and the ability to pay attention.  As with everything else in life, what matters most is what is within us, not what is outside our control.

Or so I tell myself this dreary Tuesday morning.

Namasté, y’all.

16 Responses to “an insect’s view”

  1. Meredith, What a thought provoking and beautiful essay (and the photo is scrumptious It is indeed some lovely color)~Life is transitory and there are no promises or guarantees. How wise you are ~~

    Many years ago I helped a dear friend relocate her life and garden. She had sent the movers away with her furniture and we stayed behind to dig up her entire perennial and plant garden. We wrapped the damp roots in wet newspapers, packed them in the back of a u-haul and and moved her from MO to Kansas. Everything survived! So garden; garden in containers, garden in the ground-take it all with you.


    • I’m glad you thought it was beautiful, Gail. Sometimes the words flow better than others — even though the subject matter might be a little morose.

      I do wish I could take it all with me! There’s just no telling where we’ll go. Europe and Canada are possibilities, as well as a move cross-country. (F. is particularly interested in the Pacific Northwest, and it has appeal for me, as well, esp. since I was born there.) So I’ll try and be content with impermanence, for now. 🙂

  2. Mmmm. A perfect read for me today, as I have been thinking the same thoughts these past few days. Will we stay? Do I want to stay? Will we go? If we go, where? What if I hate living there more than I hate living here?

    And this line, ” There are so very many ugly places in this world… and many of them are rental units”, in the midst of such beautiful and moving words, made me laugh. Because it is so true.

    • I think you and I are struggling with similar issues on the roots/home front, Alisha. Glad I could make you laugh. It’s so true about the rental housing… some of them are scary! But somehow we’ll survive. 😉

  3. Blessings to you, Meredith. I hope things fall into place in a lovely way for you. Thanks for reminding me to find beauty where-ever it is. And thanks for visiting my blog recently.

  4. Dear Meredith, I was a little saddened to read your posting as I was, of course, unaware that you may well have to leave your garden in due course. But, I am totally confident that when that time comes you will make another which, never the same, will absorb you as much, if not more, than this one.

    I am very fortunate to have been able to enjoy my garden over many years. You too will put down these garden roots one day.

    • I do so hope you are right, Edith, about me being able to put down “garden roots” some time. Thank you for the kind wishes. And I believe your good fortune, in developing your garden over many years, has turned out to be good fortune for many of us who read your blog. 🙂

  5. Think positive about the next place. Visualize what you would like, and who knows – you might be pleasantly surprised.

    When my wife and I started looking for a place in 2007, I was downsizing from 40 acres, and she was upsizing (if that’s a word). We found a place that was 1.5 acres, and just what we were looking for. It sort of felt like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, finding a place that was Just Right.

    And I am sooo with you on the whole cutting grass thing. What a waste of time, energy and plant life! My goal is to have no lawn at all when I am done.

    Nice Penstemon photo too! We have the same variety planted. It may not be much to look at, but the deer don’t eat it and the butterflies love it.

    • I love your attitude, villager. 🙂 I will try and do that. I admit I’ve been feeling the regret of leaving rather keenly lately (and berating myself for feeling it before I have to — why not just enjoy what I have now??), rather than focusing on what I’d aspire to in the next place. I do believe very firmly in the power of visualization, and especially as regards homes.

      I thought the Penstemon’s leaves were lovely to look at, and deer resistance plus butterfly attraction is enough to make me want it around!

  6. Aw, Meredith, I wish we lived closer. You deserve a hug. This is a heartfelt and lovely post, but also I hear your concern and wistfulness. Take heart, however, that wherever you go, there will always, ALWAYs be room for a garden of some description. The various locales just bring out the imagination in us as we rise to the challenge of climate, space, time, etc. Meanwhile, Carpe Penstemon (seize the plant) and enjoy your time where you are. Bloom where you’re planted, and all that. It will be okay.

    • I hope you are right, Jodi, and I’ll take that hug, even if it’s only virtual. Carpe Penstemon! I think I’ll start using that catch-phrase whenever I get gloomy and wistful and want to wake myself from my melancholy trance. 🙂

  7. Meredith – big hugs from me.
    Buy pots – plant what you love in pots and take it with you.
    I moved more plants than furniture when I left “my” last house and garden – I had plants lodged everywhere while I was house hunting.

    A sad, but beautifully written post.

    • Karen, would you believe I have about 12 huge planters, salvaged from my last garden, which was on an upstairs terrace with a view of the skyscrapers in Atlanta? It was quite a major task just to move them all, but we did it.

      Thanks for the compliment!

  8. Meredith, you might be surprised. Your garden might inspire the next tenants. And no matter where you go, you’ll not only find beauty, you will create it.

    • I have envisioned that, Talon, and hope it happens that a future tenant even chooses this spot for the garden bones in place. Thanks for reminding me that I have the ability to create beauty, too. 🙂

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