There is a rose in my garden with the sweetest scent that has always made me think of her. Actually, many different flowers remind me of her – lilacs are another and really most any wildflower...Indian Paintbrush, Johnny Jump-Ups and Buttercups come to mind. These evoke memories of her and Grandpa taking us for a ride in the country –"the loop" as the route is known– to scout for the first blooms of spring to make their appearance.
I am sitting here at my desk as I write this, looking out at my garden and trying to come up with the words to describe her...all she meant to her family and so many other lives she touched while she was living on this earth.
She was many things...fabulous in the kitchen... everything she produced was wonderful; –her homemade bread and warm rolls fresh-out-of-the-oven are probably her signature achievements, though. I wondered today how many loaves of bread came out of that cozy kitchen of hers? –Thousands, I'm sure. Almost daily –even at 88 years of age– she was making bread or some delectable dish for someone. Sometimes because there was a death or an illness; other times to contribute to some family celebration; but most often just to give. Giving was as natural to her as the air she breathed.
One thing I learned early on was to be cautious about admiring anything in her home, for if you did she would very often insist on giving it to you. Once when visiting her I commented that a trio of angel figurines were pretty and the next thing I knew she had wrapped them up and was insisting I take them. (And no amount of protesting on my part was getting through to her.) Most of the time she was the sweetest most demure lady, but when she made her mind up about something like that –well, there was really nothing you could do about it (as anyone in our family can attest.)
I think about my grandma and I can see her sitting (with one leg tucked up under her), engrossed in her latest novel. An insatiable reader, she traveled the world without leaving her home. I was always amazed at how many books she could go through in a week.
When I was younger, I used to call her from time-to-time to ask her the meaning of a word and she never failed me. Although I could have looked it up, it was always fun to call and give her the challenge. No matter how obscure it was, she always knew it. Granted, she might pause for just a moment and muse about it..."Hmmm. It sounds like it might be derived from..." but then she would invariably come up with the right answer. (Actually, she probably knew right away but she was never one to boast. She was modest like that – about everything.)
My mom told me that when Grandma was just a young girl, she used to read from the dictionary and memorize words "for fun" –if you can imagine that! This explained her ability to work a crossword puzzle, too. I think of her and I see her sitting at her kitchen table doing her crossword for the day or sketching up her latest idea for renovating her charming home.
|Grandma and Grandpa's apple orchard (20)|
Letters or cards from Grandma were always a treat. Often, they were only a few lines but always very poetic and always a mention of something in nature. She would eloquently describe how the fall leaves were changing or how she was planting this or that in her garden.
Eventually, the grandkids and great-grandkids reached such a number that she wasn't always able to include the monetary birthday gift that had been her tradition. According to my mom, this really troubled her, but she needn't have worried. We loved seeing a card in the mail "From Grandma" with some lovely message that always made you feel as though you were right there with her...enjoying a stroll across her lawn tending to the flowers or taking a drive up through the mountains to enjoy the quaking aspen trees. —Imparting her love of nature to all of us was more than gift enough.
I think of my grandma and I think of when I used to go stay with her and Grandpa. It was always such a treat to sleep there...Slipping into sheets that smelled so crisp and clean – fresh in from the line. She always made you feel like an extra special guest with a room prepared just for you.
I think about my grandma and I can't imagine a more kind, generous and humble person.—To know her, was to know love.
Buddha said: "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change."
I look at the rose in my garden and I think how fortunate I am. I am awed and honored to have shared these earthly years with this uncommon spirit who I knew simply —and radiantly— as Grandma Harris. ~
I am enchanted by the images Henry Wadsworth Longfellow evokes in the following poem,"The Spirit of Poetry" and lovingly dedicate it here to both Grandma and Grandpa Harris who lived and loved surrounded by the beauty of nature; wisely bestowing its treasures on all of us who had the good fortune to know them.
Where, underneath the white-thorn, in the glade,
The wild flowers bloom, or, kissing the soft air,
The leaves above their sunny palms outspread.
With what a tender and impassioned voice
It fills the nice and delicate ear of thought,
When the fast ushering star of morning comes
O'er-riding the gray hills with golden scarf;
Or when the cowled and dusky-sandaled Eve,
In mourning weeds, from out the western gate,
Departs with silent pace! That spirit moves
In the green valley, where the silver brook,
From its full laver, pours the white cascade;
And, babbling low amid the tangled woods,
Slips down through moss-grown stones with endless laughter.
And frequent, on the everlasting hills,
Its feet go forth, when it doth wrap itself
In all the dark embroidery of the storm,
And shouts the stern, strong wind. And here, amid
The silent majesty of these deep woods,
Its presence shall uplift thy thoughts from earth,
As to the sunshine and the pure, bright air
Their tops the green trees lift. Hence gifted bards
Have ever loved the calm and quiet shades.
For them there was an eloquent voice in all
The sylvan pomp of woods, the golden sun,
The flowers, the leaves, the river on its way,
Blue skies, and silver clouds, and gentle winds,
The swelling upland, where the sidelong sun
Aslant the wooded slope, at evening, goes,
Groves, through whose broken roof the sky looks in,
Mountain, and shattered cliff, and sunny vale,
The distant lake, fountains, and mighty trees,
In many a lazy syllable, repeating
Their old poetic legends to the wind.
And this is the sweet spirit, that doth fill
The world; and, in these wayward days of youth,
My busy fancy oft embodies it,
As a bright image of the light and beauty
That dwell in nature; of the heavenly forms
We worship in our dreams, and the soft hues
That stain the wild bird's wing, and flush the clouds
When the sun sets. Within her tender eye
The heaven of April, with its changing light,
And when it wears the blue of May, is hung,
And on her lip the rich, red rose. Her hair
Is like the summer tresses of the trees,
When twilight makes them brown, and on her cheek
Blushes the richness of an autumn sky,
With ever-shifting beauty. Then her breath,
It is so like the gentle air of Spring,
As, front the morning's dewy flowers, it comes
Full of their fragrance, that it is a joy
To have it round us, and her silver voice
Is the rich music of a summer bird,
Heard in the still night, with its passionate cadence.
Grandma and Grandpa, you are who I come from and ultimately, everything I could ever hope to be. I am so grateful. No matter where I go in the world,
1-Ralph Maughn: 2-J.F. Hobbs; 3-Shane Christiansen; 4-16 by LeAnn; 17-House Magazine; 18-Household Wisdom; 19-Natural Home; 20-LeAnn; 21-Linens and Lace; 22-Bedrooms; 23-LeAnn; 24-White on White; 25-28-LeAnn; 29-Shane Christiansen