I have these beautiful gladioluses in my back garden. Fiery coral in colour, they surely would be more at home in Hawaii or California than in northern Donegal, but yet—here they are.
My long-time friends the O’Byrnes (Noel and his son Karl, to be exact) planted various bulbs for me on the last Easter weekend. The irises have long since faded away, but the glads’ time has come. I’ve been sending pictures of their progress to the family because none of the glads had bloomed the last time the family was here, in early August.
Spaced along the back fence at irregular intervals, one of the gladioluses stands five feet tall, while the rest are maybe 2-3 feet high. They’re all Dolly Parton flowers for sure—so top-heavy they defy gravity. Add to this the high-speed winds that pummel my mini-mountain top garden and the copious amounts of rain their coral cups must contain, and you can understand why it’s (as Spock would say) ‘fascinating.’ I love to sit at my kitchen table and just gaze at them through the sliding glass doors. How do those flowers thrive with so many factors against them? They’re miracles in the making!
Yesterday, though, when I opened the blinds so I could watch my amazing flowers, I saw that two of them had fallen to the ground. My hands went to my heart in shock and sorrow. Yesterday (and for many days before that) they had been standing together; today, they had succumbed and were no more. They were the two that had grown up at the same time, as it were. They had leant on each other for support; beauteous twins. Their busty blossoms could not, after all, withstand the gales and gravity.
I went out, cut the stalks, and gathered them in. They might be fallen, but they could still gladden my home. I looked at the remaining flowers. Two or three feet apart, still standing tall they were, swaying back and forth with every sharp gust of wind and burst of rain, but seemingly in no danger—even the one that was five feet tall. How did they not fall? They were taller than the ones that had.
Once inside my home, I noticed that the stem of one was deformed. It would never have grown tall, only sideways. Indeed, the stem growing at an angle like that meant any flower standing beside it was doomed as well. They would fall together.
Ah, there’s a metaphor here, I thought. Of course, I’m the crippled bloom. If I had gone back to the US, I would have been too much of a burden for the kind soul(s) nearby. The climate (economic in particular), so un-convivial to cripples, is worse for those who care for them. My children, for example, who would not be financially in a position to help even before a transplant, would have been pulled down even more by the sheer weight of the bureaucracy that accompanies those of us with disabilities.
Here in Ireland, alone, I am in a better position to thrive. The climate is milder and gentler. Yes, there are weeds of bureaucracy, but they’re relatively small and if plucked early they will not stunt my growth. I’m not relegated to waste ground; my fragile flowers are appreciated in whatever part of the garden I wish to transplant myself.
And though I am separated from my children and grandchildren by distance, we are brought together by love; they stand in their gardens, and I in mine. They are doing so bloomin’ well! And, just as I watch my garden grow when I sit at my kitchen table; I can watch my family grow every time I look through the virtual window Skype and Hangouts afford me. Instead of waiting for a physical visit that might never happen, I can track their daily progress and they can track mine. We have a virtual garden, one that is impervious to the attacks of capricious Nature.
There are many parents in Ireland whose children have been driven to live in other countries. The Irish economic climate became too harsh for their children (especially the well-educated ones) to stay, and the parents content themselves now —as I do—with the virtual contact provided by technology. The reason this works for us is that there was real contact and real love to begin with; the gardens were already blooming. Skype and Hangouts and WhatsApp and Viber are fertiliser for the growth already there.
I’d always believed that it was “United we stand, divided we fall.” Now I know that it is, actually, exactly the opposite; or, perhaps, that we are more united when divided—as long as we have a common purpose. Love determines the weather — and the ‘whether.’ Distance and money have so very little to do with it. They are the weather—not the fertile soil that holds the roots.