Category Archives: local haunts

saturday morning in the garden: on community, and aloneness

I have a routine on Saturday morning that I’ve fine-tuned over the years. Calling it a “routine” implies just that, when it’s more of an aspiration that I sometimes manage with lots of forethought and planning. There are many things that can take over a Saturday, but I do my best to schedule as many things around the morning hours. I give myself permission to show up a little late to a fall soccer game or sign up for the second shift of a Saturday event. I layout my clothes the night before, and I bring up my phone before I go to bed, set the alarm on it, and tuck it inside a book on the floor by my bed. The girls are both actual and might-as-well-be teenagers with regards to sleeping now, and they like to stay in bed for hours on Saturday mornings. M gets up so early during the work week, that he also enjoys rolling over and catching a couple extra hours of sleep as well. So I do my best to be quiet.

I work in an open office, and the longer I work here, the more I realize just how tiring it can be sometimes to have so many messages hitting my brain at the same time. Even when I’m focused on what I’m doing, I hear the visitors at the door, or various phones ringing, or conversations around the room. My email inbox is always receiving something, and in the afternoon the text messages around E’s schedule start popping up on my phone. Maybe a year ago, maybe it’s longer now, I realized that I needed to remove myself from that space for a few minutes each day, so I try to do that around lunch time. Even if it’s for a very short time, it still feels like a reset button to me.

And that’s how I feel about Saturday mornings – a reset button from the work week. I feel like I need the alone time, but admitting that feels strange, and not entirely accurate. I spend most of the week longing for the weekend to reconnect with my family, and kicking off that time with time spent alone feels at odds with that. So I’ve stopped considering it “alone time”, and I just think of it as “aloneness”. The definition of aloneness is presence, fullness, aliveness, joy of being, overflowing love. You are complete, you are enough.

I love my Wednesday morning walks with F in the garden, and I loved them with E as well. But a couple of years ago I stopped getting volunteers when I’d ask at dinner on Friday nights –  “Who wants to get up and go to the garden with me in the morning?” – so now it’s usually just me. 

I arrive when it opens early for walkers, at seven. I take a different route each time. I look for small things budding in places that most would overlook. I stretch out all of the stiffness of a desk job. It’s fragrant, and smells clean and damp and new. I see the same faces that I see each week, we greet each other in passing. Sometimes I run into people I know from elsewhere that have built this ritual into their lives as well. I notice when there is someone new I haven’t seen before, and it makes me glad. I want others to know this secret too.

I leave the garden just before eight, and head a few blocks south to the farmers’ market in the adjacent park. I have a firm time limit here – twenty minutes – twenty-five tops. The stands are just opening up, and so the lines are short and it’s doable. I pick up flowers and exchange good mornings and light conversation with the sellers. I’ve been walking for an hour among flowers, so the abundance of options for taking home feels overwhelming at times. The regulars are there – all the people that want first crack at the offerings. An older couple wheels in a giant wicker shopping basket, and they purchase buckets of flower each week. They must spend hundreds of dollars some Saturdays. I once parked next to them at a gas station, and saw the flowers in the back of their expensive station wagon. They waved with recognition.

I set the time limit because I have a yoga class to get to. I started this class several years ago, back when I had just completed physical therapy for my feet and my PT was taken aback that I couldn’t touch my own toes. I was the least stretchy person, and my balance was abysmal. I parked myself in the back corner, and whispered to the instructor that I had no idea what I was doing. It’s a power yoga class, so the holds are long, and the poses and add-on’s are challenging, but I was instantly hooked. My body is a different body now, but so is my mind. There is a community to this room, and to other classes that I take at the Y. I’m no longer that person in the corner anymore, silent, unsure.

During class on Saturday I thought about aloneness, and then community. I numbered dozens of people I had connected with in some way that morning as I deepened my breathing on the mat. When I miss a week, I miss these people; when I return, they ask me how I’ve been, and I do the same.

I can remember a time in my life where making new connections in a room full of strangers felt daunting and exhausting. Now it gives me energy and adds fullness to my day. I ease back into the house with a late breakfast that is simple and special. I pour a cup of coffee and enjoy a different light in the kitchen. The flowers rest in the sink, awaiting fresh water, a trim, and a vase. I see their blooms all week long, and they take me back to the quiet currents of community, overflowing love.

last wednesday morning in the garden

What a week last week! But we made it to the other side, and are still standing. (Well, I’m standing fine, just not lying down so well, but that’s another injury story for another day.) I didn’t make my April daily writing challenge, but I did post something for 2/3 of the days of the month, so that was certainly an increase over February and March. I’m feeling a little more relaxed about the rest of May and the start of summer. We’re always busy, but I can feel a little bit of summer’s pull on me to slow down a bit and enjoy it more.

But back to last Wednesday – the weather was so beautiful and the days have been sunny and getting steadily warmer. The day ahead was SO full – I had work, plus Give Day tasks for We Stories, and bundling for the annual soiree and auction for F’s school. My schedule was packed from 5:30 am through at least 1:00 am the following morning, so I debated skipping the garden and having someone else handle the carpool that morning. But I couldn’t do it. I knew that my day (even a long one) would go so much better if we went, and so we did.

I let F pick our breakfast spot, and I ordered big and enjoyed every bite in anticipation of the day. We were a little rushed once we got to the garden, so we’ve decided to switch into summer mode and go for quicker breakfast options or bring food with us. The tulips are amazing right now, but will be probably be on their way out by tomorrow’s Wednesday visit, so I took as many photos of them as I could. The azaleas are starting to pop, so there is color everywhere you look.

There was enough of a breeze blowing to occasionally create a shower of white and pink blossoms across the landscape. Almost all of the tulips had blossoms resting inside of them.

We didn’t make it back to the secret paths, but tomorrow we’ll make sure to get back to the Japanese garden to see the dogwood trees and azaleas in all their glory. We’ve been walking to school again in the mornings, and it’s fun to watch our neighborhood yards come to life just like we watch this place for the same signs of spring and summer. The mornings are still cool, but it won’t last long. We’re enjoying it while we can.

Tulips always lift my spirits, and the garden energizes me and settles me at the same time. It was a week that took a lot of balancing to stay afloat, and I give a lot of credit to this place for helping me do it. We’re so lucky to have this spot to wander and reconnect.

saturday morning in the garden

It was so beautiful on Wednesday morning, that I was determined to get back here on my own this morning. Determined enough to set an alarm clock on a Saturday morning.

It was so much chillier than the sunshine let on through the window. My eyes watered for most of the walk, but the sun felt so good to me. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing with a camera, but it’s impossible to take a bad shot in this season. Everything is exploding, and the low sun and the blue skies and crisp air just help to highlight it.

F and I don’t always make it all the way to the rear of the Japanese garden on Wednesday mornings, but when I get a chance to, I take it. I love the zig-zag bridge the most – no matter the weather, it always seems to feel better when I’m walking on it. I had to dodge a few photographers in the area, but I snapped a quick shot across the water from there. I walked through the woodland garden where the sun peeked in through the tree canopy above.

The tulips just get better each visit. The varieties and colors and those tall, straight stalks are just so beautiful. Seeing them in bloom never gets old. But there are also tiny little treasures along the way that are easy to miss if you aren’t looking. I think that’s why I love the early mornings – it almost feels like the lower sun angle helps to highlight the buds and blossoms that would get lost in the middle of the day and the middle of the crowds.

It’s almost two in the afternoon as I sort through these photos and post them here. I can imagine how busy the place is right now, it’s a gorgeous day for a visit. I love the garden anytime, but it’s such a gift to be able to visit in the off hours, with a camera, a too-thin sweater, and an hour set aside for just this.