Sunday, June 20, 2010

Honeysuckle From Heaven


In the nine years that Gillian’s been gone, I’ve been blessed with many signs from her. In the beginning, especially, they were frequent and dramatic. I’m surprised I haven’t written more about them here. I didn’t take them for granted, exactly, but it’s only now that I fully realize the magnitude of the gifts I’ve been given. Jill, in spirit every bit as loving and creative as she was on this earth, has shown me miracles.

Most of the signs have involved animals or plants. In one of Dr. Michael Newton’s books (the second one, I think—Destiny of Souls) I read how some souls are taught how to create plant matter. It’s possible the book also contains information about souls’ communication through animals, but I may never get to that part. His books meant so much to me that so far I've left them unfinished.

One day in June, less than a month after Jill died, I was washing dishes at the kitchen window overlooking the backyard. Years earlier, I had ambitious plans for part of that yard. I’d planted a white rose, Sir Thomas Lipton, that was supposed to be the start of a garden. I got distracted with other things before designing the rest of it, and the garden never materialized. In fact, after my failed attempts to clear the area, most of it reverted to a wild tangle of blackberries and grape vines. Sir Thomas bloomed for a number of years before harsh winters took their toll. Eventually the rose bush died.

That June day I looked up from the dishes in the sink and saw a cloud of white at the far left side of the yard. Could it be the rose? Impossible! I dried my hands and walked slowly to the back door, afraid that if I went outside I’d find the rose bush as dead and bare as ever. But the white flowers were still there when I stepped out into the sun, and they were still there when I picked my way through the weeds to get closer.

The rose bush was covered in blooms, brilliant and fragrant. But another scent was even stronger. Blanketing the rose was honeysuckle. Thick, dense honeysuckle vines where none had grown before. Not ever, in the 25 years I’d lived here.

You have to understand that from the time we moved here, I knew the name of every plant that grew on this property, domestic or wild. Never had I seen honeysuckle. It’s not something I would have forgotten, either. Honeysuckle had special meaning for me.

My mother, raised in what was then rural New Jersey, longed for a garden. Floral abundance didn’t exist in New York City, where I grew up. We spoke of “a house in the country” the way people today talk about winning the lottery. It was our ultimate dream.

It’s hard to imagine nature walks along 32nd Avenue in Queens, but that’s how I think of the walks I took with my mom when I was little. In the shade under a railroad trestle, she found a wildflower—the tiniest thing, surely overlooked by everyone except a woman who was pulled as if by magnet to anything green and growing. She opened my eyes to the detail in ivy climbing on brick buildings. She revealed the heavy, sweet scent of the seemingly insignificant flowers that were part of the hedge around our apartment house. But the plant I associate most closely with my mother is honeysuckle.

We came upon it on our way to visit a friend one morning. I was probably around six years old. As we neared the end of a block of row houses with tiny fenced-in yards, my mother stopped abruptly.

“Oh!” she said. On one of the fences grew a vine that had spilled over the top. It was covered with clusters of pale, delicate, oddly-shaped flowers, their scent carrying to where we stood. My mom leaned in to inhale their perfume, touching her face to the thin, tubular flowers. I did the same.

“It’s honeysuckle,” she said softly. She gently separated a flower from its base and showed me how to suck the nectar from it.

A few years later she was gone, dying suddenly from breathing chlorinated hydrocarbons while cleaning a rug. And almost 50 years after that I was given the gift of roses and honeysuckle.

Was Jill saying, “I’m with your Mommy now”? Or “I was your Mommy”? I don’t think it matters. Either one would be fine. Either one was wonderful.

The rose never came back after that. In fact, the entire bush disappeared. But the honeysuckle has thrived. I just took the above picture. This spring the honeysuckle is so prolific that its scent is unmistakable 100 feet away, and around a corner of the house. Heady. Gorgeous. Strong. Miraculous.

8 comments:

crystal said...

Beautiful post.

Susan said...

Thank you, Crystal.

Bridgett said...

My grandmother had a lilac bush--she was a great gardener and produced beautiful roses and flowering shrubs and trees--but this lilac never bloomed. Ever. For 20+ years.

She died in February of 1991 and the lilac bush bloomed that spring (my uncle inherited the house).

It hasn't bloomed again.

So I can dig this.

Dona said...

I'll never look at honeysuckle the same way again. Thanks for this post, Susan.

Susan said...

Thanks, Bridgett and Dona. That same year a forsythia bush showed up "out of nowhere." No particular meaning connected with forsythia, at least none that I'm aware of, but the yellow was a lovely surprise.

However, there's another plant-related story that I love to tell, and I'll post that one next time.

Indigo Bunting said...

Susan, this is absolutely beautiful, and the timing is interesting for me. I just got back from Pennsylvania (near Harrisburg). I was fly fishing a lot, and there was honeysuckle blooming near one spot. I love honeysuckle. I wouldn't leave til I'd sucked some the nectar out of a flower...one of my favorite things to do.

And this line hit me: "His books meant so much to me that so far I've left them unfinished."

Helen said...

That line stopped me in my tracks too.

A post as beautiful and evocative as honeysuckle.

Dona Patrick said...

I remember this post and thought I'd commented on it. I guess I didn't. I think I told you why, once, in a FB message.