Inaba Shidare in my garden
This Japanese maple is by our kitchen door. It rewards us with this fire every November. We rescued Inaba Shidare from a big box store at the end of the season several years ago. Languishing in a gallon pot and all but dead, it had suffered a season of being under watered and over watered. Many of its branches had been snapped and torn, so it was also badly miss-shaped. It was a homely wreck of a struggling tree. 'Shidare' means cascade in Japanese, but there was no cascading going on there. Had we not spent the five dollars, it was headed to the dumpster that night. This variety of Japanese maple has been cultivated in Yokohama since the early 1800s. Inaba Shidare won the prestigious Award Of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. A dumpster would have been an unceremonious end.
Inaba Shidare is unique amongst the Japanese maples as it is an upright grower. They reach between five and seven feet in height. Ours is about six feet now.
My husband gave this fountain to me for my fiftieth birthday. My daughter dubbed it "The Puking Fish."
The Puking Fish and Inaba Shidare greet visitors at our front door. I see them from the kitchen, too.
These Japanese maple leaves are from a different tree in our yard. Unlike Inaba Shidare, it has a horizontal form. It was also a rescue from the brink of death and destruction. One August, we dug it up from a property where it was hours from being bulldozed. I don't know what variety it is, nor do I care. It thanks us every fall with this outrageous crimson. Ferns grow at its feet and this Pulmonaria volunteered amongst them. Who could blame the Lung Wort for wanting to be with them?
The iron pagoda was given to my husband by a dear, elderly friend, Louise. Louise died. She was ninety five and had lived a rich, bawdy life. We loved her and she loved us. Louise would have loved being in the middle of this riot of fall color. The Japanese Painted ferns by the pagoda, the dwarf, false cypress and the hostas were also end-of-season, big box cast offs.
Japanese maples do well here in agricultural zone five. They like humidity, of which we have plenty on the coast. These trees thrive in the conditions that make your hair frizz. They do not do well in wind, nor too much sun. The leaves dry out very easily, so they must be protected. We have seven of them on our postage stamp sized property, each tucked into a protective nook with afternoon shade. Every one of them is a rescue, nursed from the brink of death to the glory that was intended for them.
I am a gardener. It's a hobby to which I have been deeply devoted for decades. For money, I garden for other people in the summer. I call it "Weeding For Dollars." I am also, by license and education, a Registered Nurse. I don't work in health care anymore, though I still have a license. I'll probably always have it. It was a hard won token and nurses don't give it up easily. For more than half of my life, it was part of what defined me.
You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out that I am a nurturing, caring person. I have such a bad case of helping hands that I spent three years in the Peace Corps! I was twenty-two and thought I could save the world! And, I did save a couple of people. But in the end, most of my energy was spent on trying to save myself. I was profoundly depressed and physically, seriously ill more than once. It took a lot of work simply to survive that experience.
I've always felt guilty about that, too. Somewhere in my dark, little heart I've believed that I should have been able to do more, to save everybody. That didn't go away with the Peace Corp, either. All my life I have been driven by a fix it force from deep within. It would lead me to marry a physically and emotionally abusive man, a destructive force with whom I stayed for eighteen years. I clung to the belief that I could repair his life.
It has inclined me to collect friends who are wounded, crippled people. The weak light coming from their little planets gets sucked right into my orbit. Then, we are stuck with each other forever, spinning around in anguished, late night phone conversations. We huddle on each other's sofas, deep into bottles of wine and tales of despair. We clutch cups of coffee in each other's kitchens, the crying kitchens.
I love my friends as deeply as I have loved my sisters, most of whom have had horrific problems in their lives. I've been drawn into their pain as if it were my own. But while listening to their stories, I have been strategizing solutions. Though I've listened to them, in the back of my mind a play has been going on. On the stage, I am the heroine who saves them all.
When I was young, I believed the screen play ending. But as I've gotten older, I've learned that there's damned little I can fix and less that I can save. The most that I've got for anybody is listening to them with a lid kept on the advice - a windless nook with shade. I wish for us all it was as easy as the little broken trees.