ONE IS NEARER TO GOD’S HEART IN A GARDEN THAN ANYWHERE ELSE ON EARTH.  That is what my mom was in the process of embroidering on something she was making. It gave me pause at the time I found it, with her quilting materials.  It’s true, no matter how you interpret it, there is little doubt, that, in a garden, you see it all, right before you. It is the beginning, the beginning of growth, the beginning of life, amidst nature all around you, you’re a part of every phase of it, right before your very eyes.  Now I know some of you, just walk past flowers and trees as second nature and never stop to think about their life.  Like us humans, flowers, trees, nature comes in all forms, colors, sizes and shapes.  We don’t know what they will look like until they appear before us. We don’t know how long they will be with us, and we may often see birth and in the same breath, we may see death, we don’t know why some have longer lives than others, why some are smaller in beauty and others display their magnificence, in largeness, we don’t know why some live only 24 hours, and others, die off and resurrect themselves every season, without you having to do anything, but give them love and attention, though they don’t even ask for that in some cases.  Some plants are smelly with fragrances that make you pinch your nose, and others, you must get very close to smell the beauty of its fragrance.  It’s all there, in front of you, birth, life, death and beauty.  Open your eyes to beauty, open your eyes to nature, open your eyes to life.  Join me as I take a journey through my garden of emotions, thought, and memories. 


Strolling in my garden the other day, as I often do, thoughts of my mom flooded my mind.  It brought tears to my eyes in a way it hadn’t before.  Perhaps the pandemic has given me more time to think of her, or perhaps, I was just feeling nostalgic at a time when being at home more than usual seemed to be the norm.  Whatever the reason, today was the day when dwelling on her memory would remind me of life, and how important it was to live it.  I took pen to paper.

My mom lived life as life was lived back then, working to help support her family but not until her children were of an age to watch out after each other and take care of themselves.  So at about age twelve for me, she went to school to learn nursing and we were all proud when she finished, as she looked beautiful in her white smock, uniform and white hat.  Back then, that was a necessary part of your person if you were in the nursing profession.  I’m not so sure that is the case now.  At any rate, both in Chicago and once we moved to Pasadena, California, nursing would become my mom’s life’s work and she loved it.  She also loved art and in her sixty’s, she began showcasing her talent of art, something we never really knew she had.  She drew mostly photos with nature all around, birds, clouds, trees.  She stippled many of them, What is that you might ask?  That’s those pictures you might see made of colored pencil dots.  Good Lord, those were amazing, as I used to sit and watch her put dot after dot to paper, until they made sense and became a recognizable image or feature.  Mom had the patience of Jobe.  And at every time we could, myself and my three brothers tested that.  We never won, of course.  Mom was always one step ahead of us. These memories on this day, were so vivid, as if I could pick up the phone and call mom and talk to her about how, we, as kids would play around with her, try to make her think something that wasn’t true, and how she would always catch us, one way or another, mom would always know and we could never fool mom.

NOW,  in my own house, my own garden, I wasn’t trying to fool mom or Mother Nature, and I know how truly appropriate that saying is and what it means. My mom; was like God to me, someone I looked up to for everything in my life.  I always needed her blessing.  We were close, and she is why I am who I am today and for sure why I have a garden. This is her tribute and I do feel closer to my mom in a garden of hers and my flowers together joining hands and living together in peace and harmony, more than anywhere else I might roam on this earth.  So it should be no surprise to you that I dug up her garden when I sold her house, planted all her plants around my gazebo and together we are all together in times of love, of struggle, of memories, of life. There is life in a garden, there is a memory, there is a moment, where all those come together and reside in your heart. If you allow yourself to go back there, to think of a time when your best memories may come flooding back, where you’ll think about life, loss memories and love – it will find you in your garden, if you don’t find it first.

I built my garden, starting with her flowers, I didn’t have any other reason than she loved her garden and how much it meant to her.  But today, over the years, this garden represents so many things, thoughts about my son and my wish for his love and happiness, the peace it brings when thinking of my mom and dad, and that of my brothers’ spirits, family love and how grateful I am for that, the love and appreciation of nature in all it’s wonder and glory,  the smile on my mothers face as she strolled through her garden, touching the petals gently and talking to them as if they were one of her babies.  They were.  Yes, my garden offers me all that and more!  What about your garden?

Nature is a beautiful thing, when you stop and take the time to enjoy it, but it is not what drew me to Africa, because I did not know what to expect, but it may be what keeps me in Africa.  Before my mom passed, I didn’t consider myself an outdoors person, wasn’t particularly interested in nature, didn’t really take the time to understand or appreciate it.  I loved talking to her about it, she loved it, but her life didn’t give her enough opportunity to truly enjoy nature, outside in the wild open spaces, so she loved nature in the confines of her garden, where everything began, and where I grew up.  I never really thought about it, I loved flowers, and garden beauty, but like many, I just admired and moved on.  It wasn’t until the garden strolls, I took with my mom, where she taught me about love, flowers, growth, that I began to understand why she regularly took those strolls around her garden.

My garden, like hers, is where I find peace and tranquility.  Compare that to Tanzania, where I also find peace and tranquility, being out in nature, surrounded by wildlife, culture, tribes, and people, offering me different courses of study in nature.  I can sit in front of nature for hours if I could, and just look all around and wonder about what I’m seeing.  All the different animals, babies, seniors, and wonder what people are thinking about what they are seeing.  In my world of safari, some cry when they are in nature, some are speechless, others gasp, at its vastness, and all have inspiring words.  For the animals, some would say many are ugly, in my world, they would say there’s beauty to be found in all of them.  There is a purpose that is much more clear in Africa because you see all around, and understand that without insects, birds would starve, without cows, people would starve, without ants, anteaters would starve, without dirt, there would be no termite mounds for termites to live, without prey, there would be no predators, and without predators who rule, what would they rule? 

Today and each day I take a stroll in my garden, I am entering my mom’s garden, the garden where I am closer to her than any other time, seeing what she saw, feeling what she felt, and understanding nature more than ever in life.  

I built a garden around my mom’s memory, and that gave me the solace to reflect on what she and my dad gave me and what I built with what they made possible for me. I needed that after losing my brothers.  It became my place of mourning, and whenever I’d walk into it, the mourning became memories, looking back over our times together and all the moments of joy we shared.  At some point joy took over and the periods of mourning became less and less and the memories became more and more.  I made time in my life, and created opportunities in my life to smell the flowers, to touch their gentleness, the wind gently moving them from side to side.  Before that, I was just going along in my life, taking everything for granted, loving it, but not giving it much thought.  Introducing Africa in my life, forced me to be in nature, to learn about, and to surround myself, to learn and to ask why – why was that ONE tree on the plains for kilometers, so many kilometers before you saw another one, what happened?  Why?  Why one flower here and not another one the entire day.  I would marvel at the trees, in a field of dreams that went on forever, and several in another, about the environment and how people thrive in it, about life, life everywhere you turn, in different forms, be it plant nature or human nature, so as it turns out, Tanzania is not only another part of the world, another culture, another people, all surrounded by nature; in many ways, Tanzania is a world of nature, and I have immersed myself in it, in much the same way as I immerse myself in the flowers in my garden. Thanks for taking the journey with me!


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One Response

  1. Wow, Kay, this is so beautiful! I really don’t have words that describe how wonderful this story is. The flowers are gorgeous and the story is so heartfelt. It makes me stop and reflect and also to stop and “smell the roses ” so to speak. Can’t wait for the next one.

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