It was well past dark when they sprayed the mud off their arms and legs to come in for the night. For several hours the mud drew them away from movies, text messaging, and indoor entertainment to a spot in the garden that offered equal opportunity for a three-year-old as well as her cousin, now thirteen. While they played in and around their mud pit, I kept busy transplanting onion sets, with only part of my attention focused on onions. I was mesmerized by their pots of silty mixtures, adobe cupcakes, and arrangements of end-of-summer flowers, uprooted to make space for the next season’s varieties. As our four granddaughters negotiated use of utensils, the hose, and the dried sunflower heads I set out for the birds earlier in the week, I acknowledged the preciousness of these few hours with the four of them all together.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my garden, it’s that everything in life is ephemeral. It’s taught me to celebrate all of the seasons and appreciate what each one offers in its own time. The same sunflower that held raindrops the morning after a storm, dried up and produced seeds that became part of a six-year-old’s “discovery bag,” a mixture of pollen and sunflower seeds. That discovery bag will, no doubt, germinate new ideas one day in the mind of a young artist, and inspire masterpieces for years to come.
As with the garden, each of these girls is a celebration of her own ephemeral season: a scrappy three-year-old just emerging from toddlerhood, an artist of six years overflowing with creations, an eleven-year-old with one muddy foot in childhood and the other sloshing forward into adolescence, and the eldest, at thirteen, already moving into womanhood with grace and beauty. Having them all together on a late afternoon, each with her own relationship to the garden and to each other, was a gift I know won’t likely be repeated for much longer. Other experiences and relationships will call them, one by one, to step onto their own life path.
As difficult as it is, I also know that part of my path is to let them go. I remind myself that their days in the garden, individually and collectively, have seeped through the mud into the pores of their being, and will remain with them always. They will celebrate the seasons of their lives in their own ways, like the sunflowers that press up through the soil to greet the sun year after year.