Whew, February. This shortest month of the year has turned out to be quite the journey. Perhaps you’ve noticed the quiet here in the Midnight Garden. That’s a typical condition of a winter’s garden, but belies the truth of life outside the blog, which has conspired –as usual – to teach me a lesson or two.
Honestly, at first I wasn’t worried about not blogging. Honestly, what’s there to say about gardening in February? I was starting a new job, adjusting to a seriously different schedule (after spending a month off destroying every good sleeping habit I’d ever established…) and I was barely taking time for Facebook-ing before falling into bed each night, much less blogging.
You’re certainly wondering, so I’m happy to tell you that I’m enjoying the new workplace an awful lot. There’s an office with windows and heat. I’m blessed to have joined a team of fun-loving, hard-working, good natured folks who’ve been patient and welcoming of the new guy…in fact, the first guy to work in this ‘til now all female office. The database work is interesting to a detail geek like me and since I’m employed in the business office of a local medical practice, we all wear scrubs to work each day, which makes for a comfortable work environment, if also a new wardrobe to build.
In the offices, there are also a host of potted plants from whom I think I heard a sigh of relief when I arrived. Already a few of them are greener for my arrival and I’ve brought in a few green friends from home to diversify the workplace forest of spider plants and pothos.
As the first week of the new job drew to a close, I also found myself moving myself off-site, for a luxurious two week house and pet-sitting gig in the wilds of Brewster. To save him the upheaval, my pal Mister Purrypants remained here at the Nest, in the doting care of the Downstairses, with me dropping in from time to time for litter box cleanings and to be purred at and sat upon.
But remember what I said about bad sleep habits during my lay-off time? Well, thanks to that, my resistance was not quite up to the task of adjusting to the new workplace germ pool and (perhaps in lieu of the hazing the Billing Babes spared the new guy) a raging head cold pounced as I settled into a routine with my new temporary roommates.
Here’s Mugsy, my dear pal Mugsy. We’ve been sweetest friends since meeting last year and she reminds me so of my Emily (well, the way Em would’ve been if I’d raised her from a baby, anyway) that I seriously think they were littermates.
Mugs recognized me as a bud right off and she has helped me greatly as I work through some of my wistful longing for Emily Grace and the sweet puppy smell of her ears.
Mugsy has a cat, named Peanut. Well, it’s unclear who has who, actually. You know how it is with cats and dogs. But they are siblings of a sort, anyway. P looks like a baby kitty, weighing in somewhere around five pounds, but is actually enjoying life in double digits.
And then there’s Zoe. She’s the puppy of Mugs’ and Peanut’s Grandparents. Zoe falls tidily into Peanut’s weight class and is a fan of fashion. She has a variety of kicky little outfits she enjoys wearing, itty sweaters and fleecy jackets and so on.
She’s a bit dependent on people to lift her up onto things like couches and beds and then back down to the floor when she wants to rip around a bit. Zoe’s a funny little girl who likes to be at the heart of the action, and preferrably, up on a cushion or two so she can see everything that’s going on around her. If properly outfitted, she was also happy to help supervise Mugsy’s visits out doors (from the relative safety of the deck, anyway!).
The three of them formed the pack in my care, while all their family lounged in hot tubs and on beach towels and went scuba diving and drank fizzy lifting drinks in Mexico for two weeks. And what a lot of fun the four of us had. Evenings found us lounging about together, enjoying time by the fireplace as it snowed outside, or snuggled up in bed reading. Their easy going and friendly nature – that unconditional love you hear so much about – was a great comfort to me as the cold came on.
I’m a little embarrassed at this point to say I started the month a bit cranky about it being February and the month of Valentines. To quote The Captain of the Vogan Constructor Fleet from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ”…I repeat, All Planet Leave is cancelled. I’ve just had an unhappy love affair, so I don’t see why anyone else should have a good time…”
Perhaps t’was the oncoming cold, but I was feeling just a little self-indulgent about Life not going exactly according to my own plans for romance in recent years, even as I realized it was a cranky and ungrateful position to take when I have so very much love in my life and so much/many for which/whom I am thankful. (Whatever else I do or don’t love, its nice to know I’ll always have the run-on sentence, eh?)
I didn’t figure I’d even mention my lapse, since I’d quickly decided, as I began to feel a bit better, to make my Valentines Day a celebration of many things I love (since being bitter has never been counted among those): sweet flowers, good music, great books, my family and friends, the Winter Olympics, comic books, all these sweet animals. There is, thankfully, more to Life than a bit of smooching.
But as is often the way of the Universe, the lesson about being grateful for what I have was driven home just a little further when mid-week brought the dreadful news that a long-troubled friend had succumbed to personal demons and taken his life.
How in the world to make sense of such a thing? Suddenly, so many facets of this unknowable thing called Love were freshly illuminated. After all, its love that has made our circle of friends into a family over the years and the love he found with our college-era pal that knit him into that family in the first place. I remember how we flew kites and then toasted with champagne their engagement on a warm October afternoon on Race Point Beach, the way he took me aside to tell that he knew she was the one, and I could tell from the sound of his voice, from his good humor, the twinkle in his eye when he talked about her, that he’d figured out what we already knew about her being this loving, funny wonderful person.
It was Love we celebrated during a sweet ceremony the following year (I was a bridesmaid! Ah, but never a bride…) and love that brought children into the picture a couple of years later. It was also love for both he and the children that led his wife to ask him to seek treatment for his alcoholism and depression.
I guess I’ve learned a few things about depression in the last year or so. Maybe that’s come from as simple a thing as no longer denying that I feel it sometimes and not always trying to put my bright face on those days when it comes calling. Luckily, for me it often passes before very long. I know all too many people who suffer in its grip from time to time and for them it can be more of a struggle.
For this friend in particular, it’s now obvious it was so much worse, because it either managed to cut him off from feeling all that Love from his family and friends, or worse, made him feel like he didn’t deserve to be loved.
The saddest legacy of suicide, perhaps, is that those who have not done this thing are left to wonder if they might have done something different, loved someone better, listened harder. All those things are always possible, of course, but such torturous thinking does little good and comes far too late to change anything.
All we can do is comfort one another and hope that our friend has found the peace that escaped him in life. And we can vow to love one another a little harder, to listen better, to remember to tell our friends and family that we care for them and pray that they know that there should never be a reason for them NOT to talk about what’s troubling them. No one should have to do battle with their personal demons without a second, or even a whole posse to back them up.
And of course, Life goes on…and as the songs remind us, love is all around. Love was with us as we gathered around our widowed friend and her children last weekend. It was there in the purring of my cat buddy when he welcomed me home from my time away, and I can find it in the deep green of the plants I care for.
Love is easy to spot in the pictures of a newly-arrived smiling babe named Olivia and her parents, or the tears of an athlete who’s trained his entire life in a sport he loves and now stands listening to his national anthem at the Olympic games. You’ll find it in kissing, sure, but it’s also there in quiet smiles, or puppy licks, in a kind word or a silent good deed. And yes, in the planting and care of flowers.
I wish each of you Love, in all its forms, as much as you can bear and maybe just a little more. And if you should find yourself in one of those darker moments, where it’s not so obvious to you that you are well-loved, I hope you’ll always know that you can find someone to talk to in your friendly midnight gardener.