“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln
I don’t really remember the year but I believe that at some point in the 1960s my grandparents set off to drive across the country from the little town of Walla Walla in Southwestern Washington State to somewhere in Florida . . . I don’t know how long it took them or where they stayed along the way. But I do know that at some point they stopped in Ohio . . . because they picked up this brick and upon their return home, my grandmother placed it in her garden. As a child, I had no idea where Ohio was, only that it was far, far away . . . but I did manage to notice that ‘Ohio’ had four letters, three of which were vowels and began and ended with an ‘o’ . . . which struck me funny for some reason . . .
My grandmother was quite the gardener – her yard was full of heady roses whose perfume would catch unsuspecting noses . . . then the eyes would hunt until they found it’s rightful owner. A large, circular rose garden in her front yard was her pride and joy and a bird bath held center court where birds were protected from prey. Gladioli, iris, pansies and snapdragons were all part of her landscape, placed as if Monet had meticulously painted them in their beds.
She grew vegetables as well and she had a couple of fruit trees; every fruit or vegetable was eaten in season or canned for the winter and when spring arrived, you would find her once again mowing the lawn, looking for pests and vigorously yanking up weeds. When my grandfather passed away, she stayed in that house and tended her gardens until she no longer could; the house was sold, the street was widened and the beautiful rose garden was plowed under. I haven’t been back home since my own father passed away almost 10 years ago but at that time, I remember driving by the house which had been such a significant part of my childhood and feeling very, very sad . . . not only was the rose garden missing, but the fruit trees had been cut down and the flower beds stood empty.
When grandma died, I knew I wanted that brick to place in my own garden; by that time, I actually knew where Ohio was although I had never traveled to the midwest. Funny how life plays tricks on us sometimes because I now live in the midwest and The Professor’s brother’s family live in Cincinnati . . . I have been to Ohio more times than I can remember! The brick now holds court in our zen garden – a peaceful place enclosed by a wood deck, a couple of ferns, a Japanese lantern and a water feature. I sit there with The Professor often and I think about my grandmother, about her gardens . . . and I understand her love for the smell of freshly turned dirt and the excitement of a budding new rose.