by Lauren Silver
I have the most magnificent gardening hat in the entire world. I know that’s presumptuous of me…but it’s true. Woven by a neighbor and friend well-known as a basket weaver here in the Pacific Northwest, the hat is exquisitely constructed from thin strips of cedar; a traditional style worn by Northwest tribal people in this area. The cedar trees were growing a couple of miles from my home when she harvested the bark and the story of the harvest is a memorable one.
As one of the ways I support myself, I spend a lot of time outdoors taking care of, well … I actually say, “assisting” … several flower gardens. I am honored to wear this hat in the garden each day. With its wide, gently sloping brim, the sun shines down on me and people comment that it looks like there’s a magical sprinkling of stars across my face, as the light sneaks through the tiny spaces between the warp and weft of the weave.
It took a while for me to adjust to wearing this dear hat-friend. It’s a large hat, with wide brim and tall crown. As I bent down to smell an especially fragrant rose I’d disturb the whole bush as the brim brushed up against other blooms. Trees that I used to walk by or under with no problem now required me to plot a new path. I’ve never liked wearing hats, but I felt it was important to protect my face from too much sunlight, even though I live in the Northwest. I decided if I was going to wear a hat every day, I would wear a glorious hat.
On one particularly lovely afternoon, I was doing some long-overdue pruning in a big, old clump of lilac. Just around on the other side of the lilac is a precious little shady part of the garden that in my mind I call “the grotto”. It’s always at least a bit overgrown, and is the dampest part any time of year. There’s a bird bath there that I fill with fresh water each time I visit and I love hearing the sounds the birds make as they’re lining up to take a dip.
When I hear the birds singing out their signals for who’s next in line, and who’s taking too long, and then when they hop in the bird bath, splashing the way they do, ducking and bobbing to scoop the water up and over their back and heads, then shaking out every individual feather from bottom to top – I LOVE IT! Those sounds fill me with pure joy.
As I was pruning in that lilac, my hat and I were moving in and out between many crossing branches – there’s a particular kind of percussion when branches rub against it. It’s a sound I’ve come to treasure: part of the symphony I’m surrounded by each day as I work outside. I’d been inside that clump for quite some time, moving this way and that, and had filled up my wheelbarrow to overflowing.
I finally tore myself away; from the pruning, which I love; from listening to the bird bath serenade, which I love, to roll the wheelbarrow over to my secret yard-waste hideaway. I was moving in my own reverie when I marched right by the front door of a little cottage on the property. Just as I rolled by with my big and brushy load, the young man who’d been staying there flung open his door, which swings outward instead of in, as most doors do. He threw open the door and yelled out with immense glee,
“LAUREN! How did you DO that!!??” The smile on his face was enormous.
“Do what?” I shrugged.
He was staring at me a bit insanely, really.
Again, “How did you DO that??!!”
What was he talking about?
A third time he sang out, “LAUREN, HOW DID YOU DO THAT!???”
In the midst of his third refrain I returned all the way back from the magical place that I am often transported to when I work in the garden. At the moment of my return I realized I was still hearing that sound…the sound I hear when I and my hat are messing around in a clump of shrubs…but I wasn’t in a clump of shrubs. I was standing out in the middle of a path with nothing anywhere near my hat.
A waterfall of joy showered over me.
“IS THERE A BIRD ON MY HAT??!!??!!” and I pointed to the origin of the sound, which was about one inch from my right ear.
“YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and with this we both started laughing with wonder.
I stood completely still while I shifted my eyes to look to the place where the sound – a delicate scratchy, raspy kind of fidget was coming from. I felt like I was having an angelic visitation. There was A BIRD gently moving about, right next to my ear. The awestruck young man froze in his doorway, still completely overcome with a gigantic smile.
All at once the bird flew up and over my shoulder and landed in a bush just behind me.
“There…there it is!” he pointed. I so wanted to SEE who, which angel, had graced me with its presence. There on the bush was a fledgling bird…you know the ones…their body and wing feathers are quite well-behaved, but they always have a really bad hairdo; their head feathers are still all fluffy and every-which-way. That’s who was there; a youngster bird that thought my nice wide brim was a lovely little bird sofa, and who had paid no attention when its parents told it to STAY FAR AWAY FROM HUMANS. And then, in an instant this angel flew out of sight.
The young man and I just looked at each other still beaming with delight. And you know what is almost equally as noteworthy…he did not slide his phone out of his pocket to take a picture. He just drank in the magic. We both did.
Lauren Silver lives in a one-room cabin on the edge of woods that border the Puget Sound in Washington State. As “Assistant to the Garden”, she tenderly works with plants and their owners to insure harmony and health within garden settings. She is often rewarded with visits by resident Bald Eagles, Cormorants and Great Blue Herons, along with a wonderful variety of smaller birds who come to bathe, scratch around for newly dropped seeds, and sing out the daily news. Outside of the garden, Lauren can be spotted most anywhere spinning yarn on a drop spindle, using the fleece of neighborhood sheep. She is also a speaker, writer and consultant who assists in understanding the particular challenges, sorrows and even joys, that come when dementia enters into a family’s world.Read more of her writing at: apileofsticks.wordpress.com and gracewithindementia.com