The ‘Country Girls’ in the front flower bed just finished their fall flush. I identify with those garden mums. I am a country girl too, in spite of the fact that, like them, I’ve never actually lived in the country.
Our house in this suburban city is a dear home to me now, but it hasn’t always been so. When we first bought it, over eleven years ago, it felt like a giant paper weight pinning me to a place I didn’t want to stay.
I would pull out my copy of The Private World of Tasha Tudor, the book I had first fallen in love with as a teenager when I spotted it atop my grandmother’s coffee table. That book solidified my girlhood dream of moving to the country. Yes! That was the life I wanted: a children’s book life and garden in rural Vermont.
But that was not to be. That was Tasha’s life story, not mine.
In my twenties, I allowed the idea of living in the country to become like C.S. Lewis’s fictional “Island in the West” from Pilgrim’s Regress. “Country” to me became akin to heaven. I would hear a siren and long to be in the country (as if no tragedy could strike there). “If only . . .” I would wish.
God worked in my life to change my heart. He allowed me to accompany my husband to New England for a job interview in the middle of winter. Then, my father-in-law, who grew up on a farm, poked holes in my idealistic view of rural life. What were the other catalysts for change? The gardening book gifts from my mother-in-law? The act of putting a bird feeder outside the breakfast nook window? Bringing my babies home here? Planting the antique roses? Over time, I stopped believing that my life was supposed to be somewhere else or like someone else’s. Little by little, I merged my dreams and my real life. I brought a little “country” here.
The yard was a blank canvas of grass, but plant by plant, this “bit of earth,” as Mary in The Secret Garden would say, has become a living sanctuary for me. In this little suburban yard, I experience God’s beauty and a generous helping of “country.” Baby mourning doves hatch, opossums hiss, butterflies emerge from cocoons. Hummingbirds flash, dragonflies dart, snakes slither beneath the shed. Baby bunnies come hopping around Easter and stay as adults to nibble the garden. Rain lilies bloom after thunderstorms. Bees build hives, watermelons swell, morning glories welcome the sun. . . .
We don’t have enough room for a goat or chickens (sigh), but I am content. No longer am I afraid of having to stay here. Now, I don’t want to leave.
You might have to suppress a laugh if I showed you my “bit of earth” right now—the elephant ears shriveled from the first frost, the weeds encroaching upon the back flowerbeds, the overgrown ‘Knock Out’ rose my husband has been asking me to prune. But these plants are my “banana trees.” I know they will be beautiful again.
The loveliness of this place, even this dear neighborhood, would probably escape a stranger’s eyes. I suppose she couldn’t feel, the way I do, the coziness of the memories upon entering the front door. These blessed walls have absorbed the cries of my newborns, my little boys’ laughter, my husband’s “I love yous” through the years. And, the neighbors! They have taken on a special glow that familiarity coupled with God’s love endows.
The ‘Country Girls’ are thriving in this suburban soil, and by the will of God, so am I. The Spanish bluebells I ordered just came in the mail. I can’t wait to tuck those bulbs into the ground beneath the crimson and golden leaves of the crape myrtle and put down more roots right here.