Friday, May 14, 2010
Gardens evoke a particular kind of nostalgia, one to which I alluded in earlier posts. Each of us seems to have a memory associated with a plant or a garden that arouses even the most impermeable of souls.
When Viet and I arrived at the University of Delaware in late summer, 2006, we lived in University faculty housing at 35 Lovett Avenue. The property was formerly owned by an elderly gentleman who avidly gardened. When we arrived, those gardens were terribly overgrown, and I set to work to correct that. (Viet always questioned why I tended to rental property; ancestral callings, I suppose...).
Both Gwinny, my late princess, and Gramsci, enjoyed the backyard garden. Gwinny basked in the sunlight, while Gramsci explored the new property and its frog pond (on the east side of the house). He loved to lie under the peony bushes--and looked quite regal doing so! On occasion, Gramsci liked to escape the confines of the property and often ventured into the construction site next door, or onto the science part of campus. One day, emboldened, Gramsci caught a wayward bird in the bushes. Poor little birdy. Viet and I took it the Catholic Church next door, thinking that might save its soul (or at least keep Grasmci from eating it). Its little heart raced; I don't imagine it survived long after we placed it on the ground and left it with apologetic thoughts for what our cat had done. I suppose Gramsci was merely following his own ancestral callings...
Knowing 35 Lovett was slated for demolition (next month to be exact), I "liberated" a few things: pale yellow and pale blue irises; daffodil and paper white bulbs; and a clump of Siberian irises (which finally bloomed!).
Announcements were made that construction of UD's grand, state-of-the-art science facility would begin next month. The faculty living there vacated the premises last week. I planned a late night rescue of the peony bushes, perhaps the aster, a few more bearded and a lot more Siberian irises, and some other bulbs. The wisteria had grown too large, so that would have to stay.
I walked by the property the other day and discovered that the peonies were gone, as was the aster, the azalea, and sundry other things. The imposing Black Walnut tree in the rear had been removed several weeks ago. I had to make my move; tonight or tomorrow night would be my stealth mission. I even arranged with a colleague (the ever gracious Alice) a phone call and a bailout in case I was arrested. Yes, I was quite serious about Operation Siberian Iris.
Viet and I arrived on campus yesterday to discover the property fenced in and the bulldozer in place. The backyard had already disappeared. Later that afternoon, the lovely magnolia tree, which would compel every Asian student at UD to stop and admire its spectacular showing, had been chopped down while I was in class. By the end of the workday, not a single plant, bush, or tree remained. Operation Siberian Iris was aborted.
I feel a pervasive sense of loss as I write this. We did not own 35 Lovett, but tending to the garden beds engendered a sense of pride and an emotional stake in the property's future. Gwinny lived her final months in 35 Lovett, and there suffered a massive stroke on 24 January 2007 which claimed her life after so many months of quietly suffering with renal failure and assorted other health problems. She lived her final months, I am convinced, more for her daddy; Gwinny always took care of me in her unassuming ways, and saw to it that my life was stabilized before she took her leave from this earthly existence. Her death continues to haunt me, as deaths do. The disappearance of 35 Lovett makes her loss all the more palpable, and all the more lived on this day.
And those lovely flowers.... the previous owner was an astute garden designer, for each wave of blooms was followed by an equally sensational display.
If there are any regrets....well, it is that I did not implement Operation Siberian Iris sooner.
Goodbye, 35 Lovett, and goodbye to your lovely gardens, which are now just a memory to be accessed from time to time.