Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Song of the Snapdragon

My Uncle Van was a farmer, my Aunt Freda a gardner. They lived in a large farmhouse in the middle of acres and acres of almond and avocado trees in the fertile mid-section of California. Before you could even enter Freda and Van’s house, you had to walk past Freda's large (well…it seemed large to 4 year old me) flower garden. I always had to linger, I was just all enough to peek over the low white picket fence surrounding the garden area. And how could you walk past without admiring the vivid red and yellow tulips and the bright purple iris? But my favorite flowers stood in tall stalks at the back of the garden. After asking permission, I would carefully walk past the rows of lower, lesser blooms to the tall, willowy stalks of Snapdragons. Their red and yellow mouths had begun calling to me as soon as we drove down the lane toward Freda and Van’s home. Perhaps it was because they were the only flowers that I was allowed to pick. Perhaps it was their tender smiling faces or perhaps it was their sweet songs of happiness, sung to me at dusk in Freda’s garden. Snapdragons became forevermore my favorite flower. Freda grew a wide variety…bearded ones with gaping, toothless smiles; taller stalks with faces that peered into mine, supported by strings of cotton twine; shorter multi-colored ones, I loved them all. 

All of that Snapdragon love has not given me green thumbs, that is certain. Every year, I faithfully plant them…every year they grow…but none of my cultivating skills have produced the fabulous display like Freda’s garden. 

My snapdragons have, however, produced some memorable moments. One spring I planted some shorter stalks in a pot just outside the sliding glass door. I thought they would provide sweet music to me as I adjusted to single life (this was before I met and married Robert). I came home from work one day to find that grandchildren had visited while I was away….the flower pot was empty and all of the snapdragons were strewn about the uneven brick patio and dried to perfection in the Arizona sun. I stopped short of being mad- reminding myself that my grandchildren who were a part of me loved the flowers I loved. A few weeks later, after several days of rain, I discovered tiny green snapdragon stalks growing up from between the bricks of the patio. A gentle reminder that even on hard days, God will send Snapdragons to sing to me. 

Now I am adjusting again to the new and singular life of widowhood. The new yard and garden are a work in progress. Mostly, they’re a work. Lots of it. "The snapdragons can wait until it’s complete", I think, "the crowning touch". There are oleanders and ruella to trim. And weeds to pull. Ugg. Lots of weeds. I did the front yard…HOA, you know. But the back yard I left for another day. Most days are too busy. Some too hard. And some days I just don’t like doing more hard things like pulling weeds. But weeds grow anyway (why, weeds, why?). And hard things have to be done. So on a Friday afternoon, driving home from work, I made myself a promise that I would do that hard thing and pull the back yard weeds. And pull them I did. Thorns poked my fingers through my leather gloves, one weed was so thick and tall I nearly fell over as I pulled it loose from the ground. I think the weeds nearly won…I weeded one section, turned around to survey my work and discovered that more had grown where I had just been (really! I think that happened!). But as I worked my way around to the fence, I heard a familiar song. There, in the sharp rock along the fence grew a fat Snapdragon plant, the deep pink blossoms (my favorite shade of pink, too!) calling my name and cheering me on. I know where they came from. There were planted by a Miracle…because He knew that amid all the hard things in life, Snapdragons would sing songs of happiness and make me smile.