The Perennials Remember

The Perennials Remember


Jan Philpot

"Don't eat the dirt!" I think I remember my mother warning me of that many yea-long years ago.or maybe it was more like, "Wash your hands before you eat". Today I was tempted to "eat the dirt". It looked chocolaty and moist and utterly life giving. There is nothing that feels more healthy to me than digging around in fat black soil, tucking little plants in, giving them a drink, moving on to dig around in more fat black soil. I positively feel healthy with dirty hands, as long as they got that way digging about to make a home for something green. Maybe it is the ancestry kicking in, since the majority of mine, up until a generation ago, made their living by the soil.

Of course it was not "food stuffs", but flowers I was tucking in. And as always, a trip to the market was in order to replace the annuals. Their "happy little faces", for that is how I always think of them, brightened the flowerbeds. I do not profess to have a "green thumb", but spring is not spring without the ritual of welcoming flowers to our lives.

Perennials are my favorites. Never ceases to amaze me that Mother's Day is always trumpeted in with a snowball bush heavy with blooms, or that my tulips never forget me, and the forsythia forever heralds visitors. Never ceases to be a comforting miracle when the first fragrant scents of lilac remind me this is spring. They are old friends. They have bid me hello each season for nigh on thirty years now. As amazed as I am with the annual miracle, I would be as hurt and disappointed as if a human friend had neglected to "drop in", should they forget me each year. But they don't. And I expect they will drop by to say hello for many a spring when I am no longer here. I hope so. They are a part of what makes this place a home. The snowball that has been the backdrop for many a Mother's Day photo, many a prom picture, has survived two tornadoes, once torn to its very roots. The azalea was my first Mother's Day gift many years ago. The tulips my children helped me plant, when they were so young their little chubby hands had to be guided to drop the bulbs in their respective places.

The perennials are more than beautiful old friends. They are memories; they are annual celebrations of a long ago happy moment, each one of them. They never forget, nor allow me to forget, and they return to remind me of a blessed life. And so I know, even when I am no longer in this place, they will return to celebrate the happy stories of my life. Just as my grandmother's do.

She lived in what is now known as Land Between the Lakes. The people who lived there for generations between the rivers were moved out by government dictum. Some were relocated to make way for the lakes and dams, some for the easements, and others, my own family, bought out that the communities be disbanded, the homes be torn down, the people scattered, to create a wildlife refuge and sportsman's paradise. That they did. And in pain, the people left the land upon which they had lived generation after generation, the place they had given birth and buried their own. And in confusion, frustration, often anger, they left all they had known and their people had known, and now the generations of those families are scattered all over the country. The place now is much like it must have been when my ancestor first came to it early in the 1800's. No trace of a homestead remains, and visiting the area means one must come prepared to do battle with ticks and copperheads. Few of us there are, and fewer every year, who can point and say whose homestead was here, whose there, where the tiny white church house stood, or the one room school. The younger generation, many well advanced toward middle age now, sees only a wilderness where we point. But the perennials remember.

Not a foundation and not a board remains. Not a chimney rises from the undergrowth. Trees grow where the kitchen was, and the forest has encroached upon and covered the pastures and the yard. But where my grandmother planted flowers, where her own children's chubby hands were guided to plant the seeds and tuck them deep in the soil, still they spring up annually to celebrate a moment nearly a century ago. If one looks about with eyes that wish to recognize, they will see a rose here, a lily there, a daffodil yonder. The homes were torn down, buildings moved, the forest allowed to reclaim what was its own.but the perennials remember. And celebrate. Every year they yawn, and stretch and burst forth in cheerful celebration of the lives of people who tended them long ago and now are gone. Whatever befell those people, their flowers are not silenced. That at least, could not be taken away. Once there was a people here, who settled a land, and flourished. Once there was a people here who built homes and schools and churches, and tended their soil. And the perennials will forever remember;the happy moments of her life, my life, and your own.

About the Author



Jan Philpot also shares her writing each week through her Sunday Afternoon Rocking columns which are distributed on the list Sunday Rocking. This is not a "reply to" list, and normally only one message per week will come across it, that being the column. To subscribe send email to Sundayrocking-subscribe@egroups.com

Article Copyright 2001 JanPhilpot

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