Saturday, August 21, 2010

Making Friends

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Quiet, motionless here on the mountain this morning. 41° as the sun considers waking beyond Peacham Pond. Even the loons are silent today. A beautiful doe deer, alone as always, walks though the lower field eating grasses but always keeping one ear leaning towards the house as if listening for me to say "Good morning dear deer."

We have been busy at the nursery despite the absence of the daylily color that filled the fields just two weeks ago. The mums are coming on nicely and should provide color in another couple days and some of the fall perennials are coloring up too. Trees along the Winooski River are beginning to change colors and even the out of control goldenrod along the western border is turning brown much earlier than usual.

Weeks ago I wanted to write about friendship and I never made it. Maintaining 5 acres of plants for two people is a challenge in itself. As many have reminded me, my writing and entertaining have been neglected and last year's Blotanical award of Best Gardening Blog in Vermont probably will not repeat this year with the scarcity of my writing. Those things do happen.

Any business person meets visitors and customers who over time become more than visitors or customers. Friendships build over a ten minute conversation or repeated welcomes. The friendships can surround flowers but often work into health and family, kids and grandkids, community, religion --all the things that make people what they are.

This summer was different to me than previous years as recollection suggests I spent more time sharing with customers and visitors. I always ask about a friend's son in Afghanistan because I care and I respect his strength to be there. Those questions always come with a fear of the answer but I always ask them. A customer friend of many years arrived with headgear suggesting she had met cancer over the winter. She shared her story and as always, discussed the strength of her gardens and what she needed to buy to make them better. She spoke compliments about her doctor, hospital and friends and it was clear how strong those friendships were. She returned twice more this summer.

A man returned to show me some fine sundials he is making. They are made of slate and are designed specific to one's personal garden longitude and latitude. His absence was much longer than he intended as he developed serious heart problems and was hospitalized for some time on the brink of never making a sundial, never making anything again. But he recovered some and he came back to see me.

I keep thinking of Nicole who I met last year as she pulled off an incredible flower raising fund raiser for a friend with cancer. You might have seen the friend's story on Channel 3 News earlier this summer. I think of Nicole's devotion to her project and to her strength. Working, raising kids and devoting an entire season--every single day--to a friend shows a strength that is more than commendable. I will remember her forever!

My son Alex has a friend Michael who spent part of yesterday with us. We have known him ever since preschool days and even though autism pushed Alex into a home education program away from the public school, Michael has remained a strong friend. For some it's a nuisance to deal with a person with special behaviors but Michael never cared and always has been an important part of Alex (on right in picture) Yesterday the smiles and laughter of these two made me feel all too emotional. As I sit here writing, my eyes get watery just thinking about their friendship. Michael leaves today for his first year of college. Although distance will challenge the relationship, I know it will remain strong.

Friendships take on different courses but gardeners are a strong crew. I met a woman earlier this summer named Jocelyn Hebert. You might have seen her on the Channel 3 News last night. She is a gardener and I have met her mother who is also a gardener. Jocelyn and I talked about gardening and plants and I immediately liked her and bundled up some special hellebores that had just arrived and gave them to her after finding that we have both like them a lot. As we talked I learned that she was about to embark on a hike of the Long Trail as a fund raising and awareness raising tribute to her father who had passed away after an experience with Parkinsons. Her website Peaks For Parkinsons is available at Meeting Jocelyn was an experience that came as a result of being gardeners but the information we shared and the events of her hike will remain with me forever. She displayed a different kind of courage during this hike, a courage I learned about because she had become a gardening friend.

The two sunflowers up top are two friends. I often take pictures of two similar flowers to represent friendships. I cherish the friends I have met as a result of being a gardener and I know I could write a book about those people and what we shared. In a world that shows us problems every day, our friendships are important. Gardening friendships remain strong and encourage us to walk another day just as Jocelyn walked the Long Trial with others as a reminder to her Dad and to our need to help each other. As you walk into a garden today, yours or anothers, think about gardening friendships. They are special!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the sun is pushing through fog that snuck up on me. Friendships shine just as the sun will soon.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook at Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

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