4 May, 2015
Even the rockiest soil can produce beautiful flowers.
When I bought my house, the yard influenced my choice. Lush grass speckled with blue flowers swept to a tree line. A mini fern forest meandered up a slope to the right, and a wooded hill bordering the left provided a home for myriad species of wildlife. I planted a garden where hundreds of sunny-hued daffodils bloomed in the spring. An antique holly, a fragrant English lavender bush, and a brilliant pink Queen Elizabeth Rose stood proud at the center, presents from beloved friends. In late spring, peony pinks, vibrant lilies in summer, and chrysanthemum through the fall bloomed, framed by a wall of Pussy Willow, Curled Fern, and Honesty.
My kids and I spent happy hours enjoying the display in our private sanctuary.
Then Hurricane Ivan ripped through our community. Its flooding backing five-and-a-half feet of raw sewage from the beleaguered storm drains into my basement. We lost half our belongings, and the home still bears the scars from the experience.
As does our yard. Since then, our once-charming yard became an unusable bog. The storm diverted waterways. It no longer dries. I joke with the kids. “Don’t go in the back yard. You’re not strong enough swimmers.”
We sought help. The local government pointed to the community atop the hill as responsible. “It’s their runoff.” The community atop the hill shrugged. “You don’t even live here. Why should we care?” In the meanwhile, we pay taxes for unusable space.
We dug a dry well, hoping to divert some of the water and keep it from the house’s foundation. It didn’t work well. The waters overflow. We enlisted the aid of surveyors who wrote letters on our behalf. The EPA suggested raising the level of the yard by over three feet to divert the water to the foot of the wooded hill. Clean fill is expensive and thus difficult to come by. Even spreading the inadequate amount of dirt we acquired proved a challenge, with three contractors leaving us without completing the job.
At least another seven loads must be dumped to level and dry the yard. Yet beneath the fill we did spread, my backyard garden is a mere memory drowned and buried. A graceless, grassless mound serves as grave marker.
The other day, I wondered what to do with this troublesome patch of land when a swatch of brilliant purple and emerald caught my attention. A violet grew, stunning in its contrast with the ugly grey land. As I photographed it, I realized even the rockiest soil can produce beauty.
As is my way, I then related this to life. We don’t necessarily choose our formative environment, and we certainly don’t need to be limited by it. Our circumstances exert only as much influence on us as we allow, since our perspectives act as interpreters.
I hope, like the violet, to extract nutrients from even the poorest soil and flower, to add beauty to even the dourest landscape.