My mother died on Mother's Day, so this day is always a bit of a mixed blessing for me. My son sent me tulips this year, which I especially love because I've given up trying to grow them in my own yard! He is my gardening child, the one who helped me establish all of my gardens over the years. He still enjoys seeing what is happening there from one season to the next. My best memories of my own mother are of the many times we worked and played together in the garden.
She was a deft hand at xeriscaping, before anyone was calling it that, and loved to surprise me when I visited with the latest wildflowers and succulents she'd managed to coax into blooming along the paths and among the dry stacked walls she'd built around our home. Throughout my childhood, she used her unconventional approach to gardening as "beauty therapy" and "mental health therapy" before anyone was talking about gardening in those ways. She taught us all to consider the "fitness" of what we did, where we did it, and when, and why, just as she considered plantings in her garden.
My mom had a very rough life in many ways, but Alzheimers blessedly allowed her to forget the hardships and find even more joy in the beauty and value of nature. When the grand daughters of the gardener who had lived in their house before they bought it came back to dig up plants, my father had to sneak them starts and cuttings. That is how ferociously my mother guarded the peonies, lily of the valley, and other old fashioned plants in her care. She was our mother bear, too, and guarded our health and safety accordingly.
In time, she forgot all of our names and the names of the plants she loved. But for several years, she cooked and gardened without words to describe what her busy hands were tenderly manipulating. She continued to paint, too, until her last few years with us, and her paintings featured the trees, plants, flowers, and mountains she loved. The progression of her paintings mirrors the progression of the disease that eventually took her from us. The colors became less bright, the perspectives changed, and the forms became more geometric. But what shines though them all is her love for the natural beauty of mountains, plants, rocks, and wildlife that she taught us all to value more.