It’s Friday and I would like to introduce the newest member of the family, Mr. Cactus Head. MrCH moved here from the garden of a dear friend who was convinced that he needed a new environment. As you can see, he looks quite happy, pictured here with a smile stretched across his entire face, and perky ears standing straight up. (Those ears will soon become glorious blossoms a little later in the season). Mr. Cactus Head joins a whole community of plants, many of which made the trip here from Sacramento after Mom died. Among these treasured old friends: an ancient camellia that was gift of my grandmother to the family; a very old potted Sago Palm—Mom’s favorite; a beautiful fuchsia that produces purple and red ballerina flowers; a bright-red mandevilla hanging vine; a bonsai Ginko tree originally tended by a Palo Alto friend who died many years ago; an old potted jade, and a newer miniature jade; a magnificent potted sword fern; the old Meyer lemon bush; a green Japanese maple seedling; many old succulents, one of which, originally some six feet long, was damaged in the move from Sacramento—and so much more, including two porcelain frogs—gifts of my grandmother back in the 1950s. So I fully expect Mr. Cactus Head to find a happy home in this garden of well-established older plants.
My sister, brother and I grew up in the garden, spending many hours there making things beautiful. In a hilarious partnership, Mom was president of the Woodlake Garden Club, but Dad and we kids were the gardeners. Of course, Mom loved the results and had her opinions–planting daffodils out front when the house was new, roses in the back on redwood trellises.
Keeping some of these old green friends alive has been a way of keeping alive as well the memory of those I’ve loved. A living memory thus thrives partly within the branches of living things. Perhaps that is why John’s “vine and branches” metaphor (John 15:5), suggesting the entwining of our lives in Christ’s, and Christ’s in ours, feels like more than a metaphor to me. It is a description of something quite real, the interconnectedness of things. With respect to these particular plants, a sense of detachment, then, seems neither possible nor desirable. To tend to them is one small way of tending to the gift of a lifetime, to making the memory of love a living thing.