Forgotten Language by Shel Silverstein
Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the house fly
in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions
of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying
flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?
I’m not a big fan of poetry but there are a few poems that strike a special chord with my heart. This is certainly one of them.
When I was a little girl we lived next door to my grandfather and I spent many of my days playing in his yard. It was an extraordinary yard. The lot was nothing special… a largish village lot right on a busy highway. But the yard…. oh! What a yard!
One corner was a garden. The garden was overflowing with melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, potatoes and all things fresh and delicious. It was bordered with gorgeous flowers in every color of the rainbow. I can’t count how many hours I spent crawling along the rows next to my papa, munching on fresh onions that were still just a little dirty (“A little dirt never killed anyone,” he’d tell me.), the warm sun beating down on my shoulders.
There was a massive lilac bush that I can still conjure the scent of.
Papa hung a swing made from a piece of wood that still had the bark on one side from a sturdy branch of a huge pear tree. I would swing and eat fresh pears while bumble bees buzzed around me, feasting on the juice of the over-ripe fruit that had fallen to the ground.
Over the back door was a trellis covered in grape vines. The grapes were green and a little bitter and smelled like heaven.
The sidewalk that led away from the cellar entrance was shaded with roses growing in a tangle of thorny vines on the arbor overhead.
There was an old chicken coop, no longer in use, where he stored his garden tools and he let me use one corner as my own little playhouse. I spent a lot of time pretending to be Mary Ingalls in that little shed. I always wanted to be Mary because she had such pretty eyes and long blonde hair (and her husband was more handsome than Laura’s).
In a hidden corner was some sort of cinder block structure that had been started years earlier and never finished. In there we had a huge sand box and every year around the edges bunnies would build nests in the long grass and raise their sweet new babies.
The entire length of the yard was bordered with a white picket fence (overgrown with rhubarb and pumpkins) and JUST on the other side of the fence were the train tracks. During that time there was a tourist train that would run on those tracks – an old steam engine. I would wave at the conductor and he waved back every time.
In those days I lived in a magical land and I spoke the language of the flowers.
I sang with the fairies and hid with them, watching for dragons and spying on them as they munched the branches of the nectarine trees.
I lay on my belly in the dirt and watched the worms do their work and I told them all my secrets. They listened without judgement and whispered back with tales of the extraordinary enchanted caverns they were creating beneath the garden.
Then I grew up. I put aside childish things. I moved to the city and focused on making money and climbing the corporate ladder. I fussed over my name-brand clothes and I ordered sophisticated over-priced drinks.
I was miserable.
I’m sure there are people in the world for whom that life is true bliss but it just wasn’t for me.
I went off in search of that elusive “something” and boy, did I search. I looked all over the planet!
I found the man of my dreams and we started the family that holds my heart.
He taught me to give thanks for the good things I have in this moment, instead of always searching for something else. It turned out I had a LOT to be thankful for.
He reminded me that there is great value in the feeling of cool grass under your feet.
I said, “someday we will live in our perfect dream house and I’ll be able to create a yard just like my grandfather had – a place full of magic where nature is nourished and appreciated and I am nourished in return. I’ll be able to fill it with beautiful things and wonderful spaces to sit and enjoy life.”
He smiled in his patient way. “Yes. Someday.”
And then I figured it out. My grandfather didn’t move into that space. He loved the space he had. He didn’t spend a lot of money. He hung a broken piece of tree branch and called it a swing. He turned the earth and planted the garden and, only after that love poured out of him did the fairies and dragons appear.
So I’ve spent my spring barefoot in the yard. My fingernails are chipped and dirty. I have a definite farmers tan and more mosquito bites than I care to count but I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun!
It’s not done yet. Are gardens ever done? I don’t remember Papa ever finishing his. There was always something being planted or pruned or moved or painted. The creation of the space is as organic as the things that live in it. But I like to think I’m off to a good start.
First thing first, I had to make a space for the fairies! I’m quite certain, as I was building this I could almost grasp the language of the flowers again. It’s getting clearer every day.
Come back in a day (or 3 or 4) and I’ll share some more of what The Hippies have been building in their yard. There are swings and birdhouses, feeders, a tiny “ode to the desert” (where I met Handsome Hippie Hubby) and so much more.
Last week one of Sweet Hippie Daughter’s friends came over to play. She wandered around the yard for a while and then plopped down in THE AWESOME PALLET CHAIR (I’ll do that post next) and said, “I really love it here.”
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!