Geraniums, Baby Wrens, and Human Failure
In the Victorian language of flowers, the geranium symbolized happiness, good health and friendship. Its flirty little petals sprouting from the top of tall stems makes it resemble a Tootsie Pop and it comes in about as many colors. Their appearance at the local garden centers is as much an announcement of spring’s arrival as is the first daffodil. And any porch sporting geraniums is a house I’d like to visit.
I kept geraniums in big clay pots on my front porch summer after summer until I figured out they just couldn’t take the direct sun. This year they swing in baskets from shepherd’s hooks planted at the corners of the screened porch: tangerine orange, hot pink, and white.
The almost daily rain showers we’ve had the past month or so kept them happy for several weeks, blossoms exploding from bud tips and frilly leaves maintaining the deep green color of health. Once the showers stopped, though, I forgot I was supposed to water them. The result was a bunch of dried up Tootsie Pops.
When I finally noticed the hastening demise of my flowers, I panicked. I grabbed the watering can and poured so much water into the dark black soil that the shepherd’s hooks bent forward, swaying under the extra weight. Then, with chippers in hand, I approached them to perform that most macabre of all gardening tasks, dead-heading.
The wind that had accompanied all those rain showers had played chase with the fallen leaves and grass clippings at the edge of the yard, tossing bits of the detritus into the basket. I reached into the mass of dried things and realized, too late, that the wad of dead leaves and twigs clasped in my hand wasn’t leaves and twigs at all, but, rather, a nest. I quickly put it back into the basket, but not before noticing that it contained three eggs and two obviously just-hatched baby birds.
The birds were each smaller than a thimble and were as ugly as a baby bird can be. One had his mouth open so wide that it obscured his entire bald head. The eggs were smaller than jelly beans.
I immediately placed the nest back in the basket and jumped away, flooded by the trifecta of negative emotions – regret and anger and grief. Walking back and forth I just kept muttering, “I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.”
There is nothing so debilitating as regret.
Last week included the birthday of one of my dearest friends, a friend I lost far too young to forces both nefarious and heartbreaking. On the day I was silently wishing him a happy birthday, I was also remembering that in the days after his death my only comfort was in knowing that I could remember him without regret. Through all the years of darkness, he knew he could call me and I would listen. He knew I would always make the necessary effort to be his friend. And he knew I loved him.
That solace has accompanied me through every day since. It has reminded me over and over that people die, relationships change, and seasons turn, but that they can die, change, and turn without leaving behind a legacy of regret. I get to choose.