Cultivating a Culture of Gardening™

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Traveling Where a Picture Takes You

I just got back from spending a week with Momma. She'd fallen before Christmas, broken her hip, and I went down to Macon, Ga, to help her get settled back in her house after a week of rehab. With Momma being 82, having a week to spend with her alone, without the busy activities of other family members, was a delight. Sometimes she'd feel up to visiting, sometimes she'd just "have to close my eyes for a few minutes", and every few hours she'd reach over to grab my hand and say, "I don't know what I'd do without my children."
Momma, I don't know what we'd have become without you.
What I do know, is that Momma, Daddy, and both sets of grandparents were the sowers my plant passions. Roscoe and Mable Hutchison, pictured above, were my maternal grandparents. Hutchie, as we called my grandmother, was widowed in her late thirties and never remarried. She taught English in high school until she retired in her seventies (if alive today she would be sending me back my magazine articles and blog post that she'd read and would have "corrected" them, while proud that I'd followed my love for writing), she was involved in her church, and she gardened. I remember summers of dividing daylilies in the 1/2 acre field next to her white clapboard home and replanting hundred of irises that she'd dug up to share or move, of gathering scuppernongs and sucking the juice out until my cheeks ached and belly bulged, of shucking corn and shelling peas with Hutchie and Aunt Blanche while Uncle Jones plowed those red clay fields, of spending late nights canning veggies from the garden because the days were too hot in a southern home with no air conditioning. She never blogged or even wrote about her gardening - it was just part of maintaining life. But she loved that part of life and taught me to love it too.

Momma, pictured above with Hutchie, carried on her love for gardening. In the picture above, Momma is pregnant with me and picking fruit off one of the many apple, peach, or pear trees around Hutchie's house. On the farm where I grew up, there was always corn during the summer to be picked on Sunday after church for lunch, okra to be fried, and a cow to be milked.

My Aunt Julie Tinkey, the sweet soul above, taught me a whole different side of the horticulture world. Her gardens were a story to be told. With each plant as we wandered about the acres surrounding her home there was a message or meaning. A garden for Aunt Julia was a place for discovering oneself and learning truth. Meandering paths, boulders from the old homeplace, rambling roses, plants shared from friend to friend - gardening was an artwork painted to reflect life. I learned through my aunt to see the landscape as a palate to create those dreams that warm our nights and refreshen our days.
Daddy, seen above with Momma, Grandma Peake and Daddy George, was a forester. He and Daddy George started a little timber company called Georgia Timberlands. Daddy taught me to love what he called "the cathedral of the pines". He was immensely careful to teach me to understand that the business of timber management was to treasure the land and leave it more ecologically valuable than when you found it. Daddy was a tree hugger before tree huggers became the "In" thing to be.
While staying with Momma I went around the house snapping photos of old photos in her house. This picture above of my parents and paternal grandparents stopped me in my tracks. How had I forgotten this? I had remembered the camellia bushes blooming under my winter open windows and the wisteria throughout the trees that scented my summer nighttimes. But the window boxes! Behind Daddy, Momma, Grandma Peake and Daddy George is one of the large, deep window boxes that underlined each outward vista from my first home - how had I forgotten them?
For the last 6 years I've spent hours and hours planting thousands of windowboxes and have felt like I was the luckiest woman on earth to have this job. Suddenly it all started to make sense. Subconsciously, with each windowbox maybe I was recreating a little of the rich horticultural history that has guided and enriched my life; maybe I was creating a new memory for some child who would look out their window through stemmed colors to see life just waiting to be discovered.

Momma, you gave me windowboxes
... and you gave me so much more. I am thankful for who I am because of you.



At January 5, 2011 at 10:21 PM , Blogger Helen said...

Barbara, I loved this visit with your family. Isn't it funny what shapes us, unawares! I realized just the other day that my mum must have named me Elizabeth (my 2nd name) after her favourite grandmother -- though she never told me so, I knew it to be true. Realizations like that create bonds of history. Happy planting.

At January 5, 2011 at 10:43 PM , Blogger barbara wise said...

Helen, thanks so much for sharing in my reflections of family history! Writing is so cathartic, and I love knowing that friends are sharing these journeys with me.

At January 5, 2011 at 11:33 PM , Anonymous villa mallorca said...

I love this post.The family experience shared in the post is really awesome.This post memorize me about my grandmother and i am happy because i am going to meet her after a long time next month.
With regards

At January 6, 2011 at 7:37 AM , Blogger Commonweeder said...

Barbara - what a beautiful tribute to your mother and the other family members and the ways they influenced you. At our family reunion this summer which fell on my grandmother's 120th birthday, I, as the oldest granddaughter was charged with saying a few words. For the first time I realized the ways that I, and my cousins share her outlook on life. This is a great post.

At January 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM , Anonymous Authentic Haven Brand said...

Oh Barbara, What a wonderful share thank you so much for introducing me to your family and to their love of nature and gardening. I am working on a story about my manure teas and to tell that story, I to have been revisiting wonderful family memories. Annie

At January 6, 2011 at 1:36 PM , Anonymous Susan Hemann said...

I enjoyed reading your blog today. It reminded me of my grandmother. She was an artist, photographer and loved to garden.
I remember her working in her flower gardens as I played happily. I have several paintings of hers. I will have to blog about her and her work. Thank you for sharing your family photos and stories.


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