In My Mother’s Garden
“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.”
Every so often, we make our way up to my parent’s house in Michigan. It’s a 500 mile trip but there are good reasons to pack up the family and brave the traffic jams around Indiana (there and back). I know the recession was hard for everyone, but at least it cut down on the road construction. I started getting used to an 8 hour trip. I guess it’s back to my long-cut over to I-65 to avoid 80/94
Michigan, specifically Leland, holds a special place in my life. I was lucky to have spent all my Summers growing up there. It’s easy to take for that area for granted. I knew some who were born there who couldn’t wait to move away, as well as many people who couldn’t wait to move in. Maybe it’s the “greener grass” syndrome. If you are born in paradise and spend all your time there, it seems abnormal in comparison to everywhere else.
My parents moved from a Chicago suburb where retirees dream of living to the middle of what my Dad calls “paradise”. You suffer the winter for 7 months, occasionally with no power, to enjoy “paradise” for 4–5 months. A place like Hawaii offers this to you full time. Michigan makes you earn it.
There is no shortage of views in that area. Any follower of our Leland Report site knows that. I always go out to take photos when I’m up there and I never leave disappointed. It would be easy to write a long essay on that, but the Leland Report site does that better than I ever could. But there is a fascinating place that my Mom created on their hill, from practically nothing, that helped give me something different to point my camera at. And because of that I look at everywhere I go differently now.
When you narrow your focus things take on a completely different feel. Light works in increasingly mysterious ways. Moving from a world where everything needs to be sharp to one where even the slightest movement alters your focus both literally and figuratively.
What is not in focus has the same (or greater) importance as what is in focus.
What’s more important, the flower in the back…
Or the flower in the front?
Or do you not care?
I do, I like the first one.
But that’s because it’s different.
It goes against what you expect.
I entered it into a competition and the judge commented that they would rather see the front flower in focus.
I expected that.
That’s why I took two versions.
And regardless, I entered the one I liked.
The following “Buds” image was an experiment in finding a stronger composition than the typical straight on petal shot. Nature is full of repeating patterns. Symmetry is easy to find and photograph. Sometimes other patterns and shapes present themselves. Sometimes the pattern is time, young vs old is the contrast.
This past weekend my two children celebrated their 12th and 13th birthdays and around the same time two relatives passed in close succession, both humbled in their final years by “age related” illnesses. Although these were not sudden or unexpected events, they reminded me of the very nature of the garden and why we tend them, watch them grow, feed them, protect them from predators, enjoy their beauty for a short time, then watch them wither and return to the earth.
Flowers die gracefully.
In fact, you anticipate their fate and do not grieve for them
because you know they’ll be back next year.
Photos mostly tend to capture the beginning of the cycle (hope
and the peak of the cycle (beauty),
but never the end.
Because in the case of flowers, the end isn’t pretty, is it?
You remember them at their best.
If the garden was a metaphor for life, I guess that would be it.
So when I talk about my Mom’s garden, look at it in terms of your own.
It could also be your Dad’s garden.
It could be anyone’s garden.
The smallest garden is just as important as the largest…
…when you get close enough.
Dedicated to my Aunts Judy Burnham and Therese Larson who did not know each other, but spent their lives cultivating their own gardens.