Sunday, September 19, 2010
My flowerbeds have been a constant source of wonder and surprise this summer. When I did my early spring clearing, I left anything that looked like it might be something other than a weed. And even a few known weeds were allowed to stay: Queen Anne's Lace, Pearly Everlasting, Oxeye Daisies.
We planted wildflowers a year ago so I expected some results from reseeding. What I didn't expect were flowers in abundance that didn't show up last year at all. Lupine. Wallflower. Black-eyed Susan. There were a handful I've yet to identify, but which provided some of the prettiest cuttings for bouquets of the summer. Even the buddleia which we had pulled out, managed to return.
While I've loved the variety, and ever-changing palette of colors and fragrance, it's the Black-eyed Susan that's giving me the greatest pleasure. There are at least three different types in my garden. They last the longest in bouquets, complement everything I've found to put them with, and seem unphased by changes in the weather or the passing of time.
Research reveals that Black-eyed Susan is a name given to a number of completely different flowers. Some wild. Some cultivated. Rudbeckia hirta, the flower whose official common name is Black-eyed Susan, has a number of other names, including Brown-eyed Susan, Golden Jerusalem, and Gloriosa Daisy.
Considered the most common of American wildflowers, it thrives in most soils and forgives neglect. The one nonnegotiable that it needs is sun. And when it dies, it reseeds.
Much like long-term friendships.
Several months ago Julie came back into my life. Her oldest son had been my fifth grade student (he's married now with a second child on the way) and then we became colleagues who enjoyed each other's company. I left the school we shared, moved a second time, and one beginning-of-the-year was delighted to find she'd been transferred and would be teaching my ELL kids. A friendship formed based on some common background and a lot of common beliefs about kids and teaching. We laughed together and commiserated together and my day was always brightened by contact with her. When I left that district, Julie was one of the people I knew I'd miss, hoped not to lose contact with, but did.
Then she found me on Facebook, we exchanged e-mails, and started meeting for lunch. It was like we'd never been apart. Even more amazing, in our older wiser less protected conversations, we're learning just how parallel our lives have been. I've felt blessed by her renewed presence in my life and the pleasure it's brought.
After his back-to-school barbecue just a couple of weeks ago, Walt came home talking about a student whose mom had once been my teaching partner and close friend. The whole family was at the event and the mom had asked about me. She followed up with an e-mail, which led to an exchange of e-mails, which led to our first face-to-face visit yesterday in eight years.
Daune and I have known each other as long as Julie and I, but our friendship bloomed in the school between the two I shared with Julie. We taught next door to each other for two years, piloting full-time classrooms for highly capable students. She had the younger, I had the older, and our partnership was powerful. Our friendship grew out of the intensity of that experience, as well as the fact that we live five minutes away from each other, and have more in common than many blood relatives.
I found myself on the wrong side of some political and parental issues, and ended up leaving the program as a result. Daune was supportive of me through the entire difficult time, but my hurt made it difficult to feel safe with her. So without ever declaring the end of the friendship, and without ever losing a bit of love and respect for each other, we drifted apart and all communication faded away.
When she told me yesterday she thought the separation was because I found her boring, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She is one of the smartest, kindest, most reflective people I've ever known. If anything, my own uncertainty about being worthy of her friendship helped keep me silent.
Greeting her at my door yesterday afternoon, it was like no time had passed at all. She looked exactly the same to me - maybe softer around the edges, maybe a little more tired - but so little changed in nearly a decade. Our hug was profound and emotional. Our three hour tear and laughter filled visit ended only because we both had families waiting. Our promise to not let any more time be lost to us is one I know we'll keep.
These recently renewed relationships give me such joy. When I look out my window or wander in my yard and revel in the golden glory of my Black-eyed Susans, I'm brimming with gratitude for the gift of both flowers and friends. I'm also filled with hope. Hope that, like the hearty flowers which seem to require little beyond abundant light to thrive, other friendships lying fallow might soon grow into new life.