It would be lovely if every question that plagued gardeners had a neat and tidy answer. The reality is, sometimes we don’t know why certain things happen.
Take the small rosebush in the northwest corner of my garden.
It was a gift for my mother, transported to the desert by my older sister on one of the many trips she made from Oregon to give me a break from caregiving. To my mother’s delight, the initial white buds opened into pretty, blush roses. We didn’t know the name but, since she was irresistibly drawn to all shades of pink at the time, my mother dubbed it Joy’s Pink Phase.
I planted it where she could easily see it from our dining room. In the years since, it hasn’t grown dramatically. Nevertheless, it has always managed to produce a delightful crop of pale pink roses.
Until this year.
The reason eludes me. It could be related to fertilization (too little or too much), pests, insufficient sunshine or water, or something new to me – blind shoots. Alas, none of these conditions seem to fit, and every other rosebush around it is doing well.
The health of the little bush has been on my mind off and on since spring. Not knowing what to do, I’ve done nothing. I’ve told myself, I’ll just wait and see what happens next year.
This week, however, my concern started to feel heavy.
In a few days I’m going to Oregon. My sister and I are planning to visit the beach where we scattered our mother’s ashes. I wanted to take petals from Joy’s Pink Phase and toss them into the waves as we did that sad day four years ago. Instead, I gathered what remained of the last blooms on adjacent bushes. My offering will be a potpourri of red, yellow, orange, purple, white, and bubblegum pink. It’s not an ideal solution. Still, I can find meaning in it because the collection is a representation of the diverse colors she encouraged me to embrace.
As experiences in my garden often do, the dilemma with my mother’s little rosebush got me thinking about other thorny matters in life.
I can’t count the number of times in 64 years I’ve been confronted with situations that had no perfect answers. Should I have another child? Should I forgive this hurt? Should I move to another state? No decision came with a guarantee that it was the one and only, absolutely correct path. Yet, every action moved me forward to the content place where I now materially and spiritually reside.
Of course, my personal predicaments pale spectacularly in comparison to the bewildering and hideous things happening in our world today. You can’t turn on the news without hearing about some new atrocity. Most days it’s too much to absorb.
Sadly, there are no charms to cast or magic lamp to rub in times of trouble. But I know this. It’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless and decide to do nothing when the perfect answer eludes us. It’s easy to think, I’ll just wait and see what happens. The problem is, while we’re waiting, the problems have our permission to grow.
I hope that’s not the case with Joy’s Pink Phase. I hope there’s still time to embark on a reasonable course of action before it’s too late. Because, in the end, I want those pretty, blush roses to bloom again. In fact, I want them to cover the whole, damn world.