Aim for Beauty

After three years of traveling and living in Europe, my daughter and I returned home to the States and I began my fledgling publicity business. I took a couple of offices in the county seat of Marin Co. in Northern California and put up a sign
announcing my intentions. My two offices were at the back of a building
on the main drag of the downtown. There was a metal stairwell at the
back end of the hall, for fire safety primarily, that led into a small and bare
concrete courtyard, fenced in by hurricane fencing, and a small private
parking area lay outside the fence. I would look out through my back
window into this barren area and cringe when on occasion a local vagrant
person would find a place to sit outside the fence nursing something in a
paper bag. This situation was not savory or attractive. What could I do?

I descended the fire staircase into the courtyard and surveyed it
carefully. Weeds jutted randomly in cracks in the cement. Clearly there
was not much to work with, but surely I could do something. Right?
I stepped through the heavy metal gate into the small parking lot outside
and poked futilely with my finger in the narrow margin of dirt along
the fenceline that had somehow escaped being covered with blacktop
and a teeny spark of hope and imagination kindled. A little smile crept
across my lips as I began to think of seeds.

Inspired, I went to the nursery and purchased morning glory seeds. I
developed a deep and abiding fondness for blue morning glories which
used to climb up on my deck when I lived for many years in Sausalito,
facing the San Francisco Bay. Who would not appreciate their charming
beauty and abundance? Suddenly I was envisioning a wall of morning
glories covering that back fence, creating a screen from the commercial
lot into which I looked and thinking what a boon (and surprise!) it would
be for anyone whose steps crossed that area.

Excited, I brought the seeds home and soon was out there poking
around with a gardening tool on the outside of the fence, in that narrow
ridge of hope. I pushed in the trowel. Thump. What was that? You
might imagine the deflating impact it had on me when I realized that
just under a couple of inches of dirt was the extended dreaded blacktop.
I was crushed, and I cursed a society that covered up every inch of possibility
with asphalt.

The next morning I gazed dejectedly out the small office window at
the wretched fence and courtyard and relayed my story to a friend on
the phone.

“Yes. That’s right. Blacktop. Do you believe it? And I was so excited.
My morning glories would have been so pretty. And the only thing I
can think of is to find someone with a jackhammer to get through that
stuff, unlikely as that is. I can’t do it on my own.”

Just at that very moment my gaze moved a little further beyond the
fence to the opposite side of the private parking lot. Along the edge
of the lot were four men, four strong men doing some kind of repair
work — with jackhammers!

Immediately my spirits soared as I realized the opportunity that the
Universe was placing directly before me!
“Justine? I have to go. You won’t believe this, but there are a bunch
of guys out there working on the lot with jackhammers!”

I flung open the back door and rushed down the stairs, all smiles. I
knew without a doubt they were my heroes!

I approached one of the men, smiling.

“Hi! Is your boss here?”

“My boss?” the man answered, confused.

“Yeah, your boss. Is he here by any chance?”

The man indicated a man off to the side, whom I had not seen, and
I immediately moved toward him, grinning.

“Hi. I know this is going to sound crazy, but do you have a minute?
Can I show you something?”

Reluctantly the man followed me to the fence. I poured out my story
with all the passion I felt.

“See?” I concluded, poking my finger in the ground and looking up at
him imploringly. “Is there any possibility your men could open this up
for me? Just an inch here and there? Just enough to get in a seed? Please?”

The blessed man heard my plea. To my utter delight, without another
word to me he walked back to his crew and spoke with the men, pointing
in my direction. I was thrilled! I went back upstairs to ring Justine and tell
her of my good fortune, watching the men from the window with their
marvelous jackhammers, opening up the field of possibility and hope. I
was witnessing a miracle for which I gave hearty thanks and I ran back
down and beamed at the men with appreciation as they obligingly dug
my holes. Five minutes of work; a summer’s pleasure.

Over the next weeks my morning glories sprouted and wound their
faithful way up the cyclone fence, lending inch by inch the grace of their
steadfast beauty. I fussed over them daily, training their tendrils upward.
I took the greatest pleasure in beginning my workday out there within my
new and unexpected garden, taking note of any new growth, as I sprayed
a gentle stream of glistening water onto their lovely emerging faces.

Spring into summer I would grin and nod at passersby who witnessed
the slow and steady transformation, acknowledging with them “what a
difference it was going to make”. By summer’s end the sweet morning
glories bursting from their lovely green vines had fully covered the cyclone
fence from one end to the other. Their precious splendor spilled over
the top and back down again, filling in the vapid unimaginative space of
practicality with the blessing promised in a bit of creativity, determination
and the goodheartedness of a few good men willing to indulge in a vision.
Dear ones, regardless of your situation, aim for beauty.

This story is an excerpt from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. I hope you enjoyed reading it. The illustration by Linda Cook Devona is courtesy of GreenPrints magazine. I’m posting this favorite story in honor of this blog’s ten year anniversary. My first post was in September 2007! My deepest thanks to longtime loyal followers and the many subscribers of this blog, and to all those who have purchased copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy and a special kiss on the cheek to folks who have posted reviews of my book on Amazon! XOXO

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: The very beautiful Maine publication Still Points Arts Quarterly has included an excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy in their fall issue for which I am most grateful.

Note that copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy can be purchased on Amazon. Ebook versions are available Amazon, on Barnes and Noble, and, most recently, Kobo! Also GreenPrints magazine features Plant Whatever Brings You Joy in their online bookstore!

10 Responses to “Aim for Beauty”

  1. Jody and I are out back, freeing the hillside of ten years of mulberry, hackthorne and silver maple seedlings that must be 20 feet tall. Occasionally we find a straight black walnut or buckeye, all gifts from the birds and squirrels. We are saving the good black walnut straight trunks for the foundations for “twig” arbors, built of bamboo on strong walnut uprights and side beams. Next year’s project or the year after. So much light pouring in where your hollyhocks and a few new climbers/ramblers will go on the west end. I’m thinking on the north side under the big red oak, virgins bower or wayfaring stranger, my favorite names for our native sweet autumn clematis which is in bloom all over the yard, hanging in festoons from big trees and trellises. It can take the shade and I have volunteers all over. That and the volunteering boneset and white asters is filling my gardens with white from low to high. I love being able to be out in the back yard again. We plant beauty where we can, let nature plant the rest and then just spend the rest of our lives beating back the jungle into something manageable, filling in the dead holes with something else when they open up.

  2. This is one of my very favorite of your stories! What a perfect share for your anniversary. Sharing ten years of beauty! How incredible. Lucky us. <3

  3. Providential provision….I am always amazed by it. My morning glories now self seed in the gravel before my house traveling up a mock orange shrub and bursting into that beautiful blue bloom all through the bush in August.

    So fun. I grow them on trellis along the front of the garage and find them self seeded in fun unexpected places. Very cheerful.

  4. Julie, that’s quite a creative undertaking! It sounds wonderful! Congratulations! Kathryn xoxx

  5. Awww, thanks, Antonia! Yes, ten years of blogging! It’s been a joy and pleasure and I’ve appreciated your support these many years. Thank you! Love, Mom xxoo

  6. HI, Alice! Yes, “providential provision”! Exactly! And how lucky you are to have room for morning glories to “do their thing”. So many folks regard them as invasive–which they certainly are in a smaller garden! But I love them so. Cheerful is the right word! Kathryn xoxo

  7. That’s a beautiful story…Thank you for sharing it to celebrate your blogging anniversary…xoxogail

  8. Good morning, Gail! Thank you so much! It’s a fond memory! Kathryn xoxo

  9. I enjoyed this so much!

  10. Hi, Diana, I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! Thank you for letting me know! Kathryn xoxo

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