Friday, May 4, 2012

The Forgotten Garden

Although spring is taking its own sweet time arriving here, one of our houseplants is doing its utmost to make up for the lack of blooming in the great outdoors.



This orchid cactus was given to me as a modest cutting from the luxurious plant owned by our neighbour, Mrs. M. When we first moved here some 20 years ago she gave me a tour of their house, the first of only 3 visits I would ever pay to her home.  In an upstairs room dedicated to plants, I stood in awe of the beautiful flowering cactus plant, the likes of which I had never before seen.  



I am not a gardener, but Mrs. M. was quite devoted to hers and I'd often see her outdoors in the early spring, down on her hands and knees, tenderly digging in the earth around her plants.  She was already at a rather advanced age, but very hardy and forthright.



In the early summer, Mrs. M. would put her big cactus orchid out on her front porch and I would gaze at it in envy as I passed by each day on my way to and from the village post office.  Our own plant would, over the years, flower sporadically: some years with great exuberance, while others with a lackadaisical air, and some years, not at all. 



 But Mrs. M.'s was always glorious, as were the flowers in her garden.




A few years ago, I realized that I hadn't seen the cactus orchid out on Mrs. M.'s porch for some time.   And then it occurred to me that I  hadn't seen Mrs. M. herself out in her garden for probably a summer or two.  



You know how it is, one goes along in one's own little bubble, absorbed in the daily cares and concerns without really paying attention to the external world.  A sort of soft focus of the outer sphere of existence while fixated on the inner.




And then one year, in conversation with another neighbour, I learned that Mrs.M. had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and had been moved to a nursing home.




Her flower garden sits neglected now, and no plants appear on her front porch, although a riotous burst of brilliant blue flowers erupt each spring along the borders of her yard.

I have no way of knowing whether or not Mrs. M. has any memory of her garden or her love of gardening.  For her it is, perhaps, a forgotten garden.
But I will remember Mrs. M. each spring that my orchid cactus blooms.

* * *

This post is partly inspired by Bonnie of Pixel Dust Photo Art who suggested a theme this week of altering a photograph to illustrate (no matter how abstractly) the title of a favourite book.  Recently I've been reading a novel by Kate Morton called "The Forgotten Garden."
The last photo in the series above was altered with one of Bonnie's textures, "A Splash of Gold."




50 comments:

  1. That is a sad story about your neighbour and nice to hear about her love of plats and her garden.
    Your orchid cactuse is beautiful, I have never heard of this pant before.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gorgeous gardening of words & images. I can tell Mrs. M. is looking at her plant baby over your shoulder.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mrs. M lives on, bringing beauty to others through her neighbour, L. Your description of the waxing and waning over the years is a reminder that sharing our space with a plant is a relationship which, like many others, is non linear. There are times of blooming and times of fallow. But don't we always hope that eventually our patience will result in a satisfying loveliness? Seems to have happened here. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Love those flowers, sad about your neighbour. I guess we can only hope she sees flowers where she is and remembers happier times. Such a shame to loose part of ones life like that don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Beautiful blooms indeed and let's hope mrs m still remembers her wonderful flowers.... Tell me about that lovely work of art in the first shot....

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, Lynne, so beautiful and so heart-breaking. It sort of goes to show the effect people can have on us years later, even when we've only had fleeting interactions with them. The splash of gold effect is really stunning!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very touching story of Mrs M and the Cactus. I have been noticing now with each passing year how quickly time is passing. Your cactus is showing the best for it. Gorgeous.

    ReplyDelete
  8. beautiful photos! what an incredible plant and touching story, beautifully written! I loved that book "The Forgotten Garden" This is a wonderful interpretation...just great!

    ReplyDelete
  9. A sad tale, but beautiful pictures, and they fitted the progression of the tale.

    I hope your eyes are improving.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Very beautiful this flower.
    I need a neighbor like this.
    Your post is wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gillian,
    I wonder why this plant is not more commonly found in people's homes. When my mother and aunt were visiting friends in Hartland NB their hostess had a magnificent specimen of an orchid cactus, so perhaps it's an east coast thing. The gift from my neighbour was more precious than either she or I realized at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  12. G-Pit,
    Is it Mrs. M. or the lady with the teapot, peeking around the corner. You're right, this is my kind of gardening. You've seen me with a trowel before--best that there be paint on it rather than dirt.

    ReplyDelete
  13. DCW,
    How true, the waxing and waning, flourishing and attrition of plants and relationships shared within a dwelling space. Attention and nourishment are needed in both instances; neglect and indifference result in atrophy. A plant, however, may be tossed onto a compost pile. A loved one...not so easily dispensed with or forgotten.
    A reminder to bloom where we're planted--while we can.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Saj,
    From what I've seen and heard, it is very worrying and alarming for a person when they realize they're losing their mental faculties. Once they're gone, it's harder on the supporting loved ones who no longer have access to the person they cherished. We cling to our identities and our familiar comforts. Perhaps, as you say, Mrs. M. is fortunate enough to have flowers to make her smile, if not remember.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Catherine,
    That painting is one I did when I was in art school and then, a couple of decades later, updated with the collaged elements (tablecloth, plates, chopsticks, jade ring, Chinese fortune book, etc.) It's a picture of the kitchen in the apartment I had in the west end of Vancouver when I was an art student, and the items in it have a symbolic significance of what was going on in my life at that time. I've dragged it from one end of the country to the other, more than once.

    ReplyDelete
  16. jann,
    It is surprising who might turn up in one's life many years after first encountering them, and the way way they appear--either in memory or physical presence. I remember someone showing up on my doorstep as if I was a long-lost friend when, for me, they'd barely been a blip on my radar. Isn't that splash of gold wonderful? I was stunned with the effect that resulted from Bonnie's texture. But then, I'm a sucker for gold paint; must be the Italian in me.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Gwen,
    Yes, it's true that time seems to shrink as the number of years lived piles up. A good reminder to make the most of and revel in each fleeting moment; to be aware of it's passing. Not seize it, exactly, but appreciate it. Have you had the experience yet when you look back at a photo of yourself and realize, with a shock, "Hey, I was in my (physical) prime then and didn't even recognize it." I would say my orchic cactus has reached its prime. I wonder if it knows it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Janet,
    I'm so thrilled to encounter someone who knows the book and the title I used for inspiration of this tale. I mean, the story of Mrs. M. is true, but the book title really gave me the thread to weave the photos together. I'm pleased you find my treatment of it did it justice.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jenny,
    I'm glad you enjoyed the progression of the photos with the unfolding of the story. Really,it's tempting to just sit on the floor and take pictures of that plant all day long as the blossom grow and the light changes.
    My vision is still problematic, but it has improved. I think I'd do better to stay away from the computer and reading, but am addicted to both. I make up for the indulgence with long naps in between.
    :-)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Laerte Pupo,
    Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such a very kind comment about this post. It is special to have a neighbour who is generous in unexpected ways. I hope I am such a neighbour to others, though I know I could do much better with a little more effort.

    ReplyDelete
  21. The contrast between the thriving cactus, and the waning of the neighbor lady who gave you the clipping, is so poignant. There are many lessons here... That cactus seems a celebration, a testimony, a witness, a reflection... you honor the cactus and your neighbor.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is a beautiful story,perhaps Mrs. M does remember her flowers in some pocket of memory pocket where beauty resides.Your plant is amazing,I've never seen anything like it. Love the colours in the last image!

    Ruby

    ReplyDelete
  23. This touching story is delivered with so many layers and levels of meaning, leaving us much to think about, if we are so inclined. And, of course, your images really lead us through your connection and unexpected disconnection with your neighbor.

    Love how another generation of her plant carries on with someone who appreciates the love and care involved in producing it.

    So happy you shared your art and this story in particular with Photo Art Friday, Lynne!

    ReplyDelete
  24. That is a gorgeous plant. Your photos are spectacular. A beautiful tribute to your Mrs. M!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I started by exclaiming over the collage and then almost forgot about it when I got to the end of your story.

    Your photos evolved as did the poignant tale of Mrs. M and her flowers. Your cactus must have been infused with her spirit as it is gorgeous now. If the cactus is similar to the cycles of the Christmas cactus and others, it has seasons of blooming. I wonder if my light green thumb could managed this variety?

    Love the collage and the life lessons in your post.

    Bises,
    Genie

    Bises,
    Genie

    ReplyDelete
  26. Such a loving, poignant story... And lovely photos too, as always! I was particularly struck by this - "one goes along in one's own little bubble, absorbed in the daily cares and concerns without really paying attention. A sort of soft focus of the outer sphere of existence while fixated on the inner..." Oh dear, here too. And being on a "spiritual" inner directed path as well... I found out about a year ago that a neighbor got cancer about 2 years ago, was treated, and now it is back... Amazing the cocoons we put ourselves in...

    ReplyDelete
  27. Outstanding piece of art.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Louciao, what an endearing post! Mrs. M would be proud! And what a beauty of a cactus! I've never seen anything like it. It's very sad that Mrs. M's garden lies untended, but even more so, that her memories of it are at risk. Alzheimer's is a most tragic illness. How utterly heartbreaking to forget the things that made you happy. Loved this post!

    ReplyDelete
  29. The cactus looks glorious! I especially like the textured photoshopped version at the end. Sorry, though, to hear about Mrs. M.
    oxo

    ReplyDelete
  30. Stickup,
    Yes, her memory lives on, or that is, the memory of her rather than her own memory. A real celebration of her life and gift of gardening.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Forest Dream,
    We cannot know what goes on in another's mind but only hope that there is beauty to be accessed there.
    Bonnie's texture really did make the last image burst forth in glory, didn't it. A lovely surprise for myself, as well.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Bonnie,
    This is a tale probably becoming all too familiar in so many families. I guess we have to let go of who the person was and accept them for whom they've become; cherish our memories of them in their glory days, but not impose those expectations upon them. We all lose so many memories, but a few remain and grow in beauty over the years, like this plant. I love how the texture you created lends such a glorious burst of energy and light to my image. I just couldn't resist the gold, and it came through so beautifully. Like a precious memory.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Pat,
    Thank you, I'm glad you took such pleasure in the pictures and story, and took the time to share that appreciation here.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Genie,
    Mrs. M. was a very hardy type of woman, and this plant is like her in that respect. It blooms in the spring, but it might be a two-year cycle, I'm not sure. Pierre admitted to me that he'd fed it plant food while I was away this winter and I just bet that's what made the difference. His administration of African Violet plant food also keeps our violet flowering all year long. I think that could well be the secret to success that even the palest of green thumbs might aspire to master.
    But there are no guarantees in hanging on to memories or plants, it seems.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Mystic Meandering,
    Yes, but when we emerge from those dark, self-reflective cocoons we might soar away on glorious wings of self-realization as bright and vibrant as these orchid blooms!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Robert,
    I bow humbly to your praise. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Bella,
    If we forget the things that made us happy and don't know we've forgotten them,perhaps we can find happiness in the moment. One can only hope. It is so hard to watch a loved one struggling to maintain their memory and sense of self, yes, absolutely. I barely knew Mrs. M., but I'm happy to have been able to share here a little of the pleasure that the lovely gift she gave me all those years ago has kept on giving.

    ReplyDelete
  38. c,
    So much nicer than an aloe vera, n'est-ce pas? I would offer to bring you a cutting but I know better than that.
    ;-)
    xox

    ReplyDelete
  39. I hope she remembers still, would be too sad to think that she could lose her memory of gardening...

    Reminded me of the story of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a lovely place in Cornwall, England, where gardens abandoned at the time of WWI (the gardeners for the most part were killed in the war) were resurrected not too long ago, and can be visited today... may all forgotten gardens live again...

    ReplyDelete
  40. Anonymous09 May, 2012

    (the cherry blossoms are out!)

    ReplyDelete
  41. Owen,
    The mind can be like a forgotten garden,don't you think?

    Cornwall is a place I would like to visit. What a wealth of arcane knowledge you are able to dig up from that fertile brain of yours.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Anonymous,
    Let's hope they can withstand the typical Victoria Day weekend weather.

    ReplyDelete
  43. gorgeous images and a very touching story about your neighbour. Perhaps in her memory the flowers remain as hazy as your soft focus images.

    ReplyDelete
  44. traveller2006,
    Thank you for travelling over here and taking the time to leave such a kind comment. Like you, I can only hope my neighbour's hazy memories bring her a soft feeling of peacefulness.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Well, not always so arcane, took a trip to Cornwall a few years ago with la Grenouille, wanted to see Lands End, stayed in Falmouth for a week, lots of walking along the coast... and by chance stumbled on the Lost Garden of Heligan, had a lovely visit, brought home a good book about it which tells the whole story...

    ReplyDelete
  46. Owen,
    Walking along the coast and stumbling-- not always the best activities to have in the same sentence, especially when land's end is involved. But you lived to bring back the requisite souvenir book, and impress a distant relative with your knowledge, so all's well that ends well, especially if it's a wishing well set in a lovely Cornish garden.

    ReplyDelete
  47. You did a wonderful job of tying in the book name with the story of your post. I suspect that your neighbour's days are still brightened by flowers. IT sounds to me like she had an intimate relationship with those beautiful blooms. I think people who are exceptionally good at gardening simply relate to nature on a different level. Nice job of incorporating Bonnie's texture into the image, also.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hilary,
    I think you must be right about gardeners having a different sort of relationship with nature. I have several friends who are avid gardeners and they just come alive when they're out identifying the blossoms or digging in the soil or extolling the benefits of one variety of onion over another, while I am only longing to go back in the house for tea and scones.

    ReplyDelete
  49. the first time when i came here to read, i was so touched i couldn't leave any message... it is one of your most beautiful and poignant posts, dear Lynne. by a coincidence, my mother's orchid cactus blossomed this year, after a long time, and so i had come to learn about its beauty only a while before your post. i showed your photos to my mom as well, she was so impressed (but i didn't translate the story, i thought it would make her too sad).

    a big hug to you...

    ReplyDelete
  50. Roxana,
    I wonder if there is some sort of orchid cactus synchronicity for blooming this year. Someone I met in Quebec said his mother's plant had just bloomed more amazingly than ever before. Even the small plant from a cutting we took from the big one produced one glorious blossom this season.
    I'd been thinking about writing about my neighbour for a few months and wondering how I would go about it...and then the cactus burst into flower and I knew how to share her story. I think it was wise and sensitive of you to give your mother the happy images rather than the poignant story.

    ReplyDelete