Winter Solstice 2012: Jenny’s garden

On one of the blogs I follow (http://gardenseyeview.com/2012/12/01/seasonal-celebrations-winter-solistice-2012/) the author challenged her readers to examine the meaning that the solstice had for them. I haven’t contributed to her site before, but the question struck a chord this year. Someone I love is gone from my life now, and in this season I really feel her death and with it, all the things I don’t understand.

My breath is fogging the cold window pane and my forehead is leaning on the glass, the better to see outside onto a frigid landscape—to see the bones of the garden. On the kitchen table, there are stacks of catalogs with perfect pictures of glossy vegetables and glowing descriptions of “days to maturity” and “insect resistance”. Who writes these perpetually hopeful reviews of basil and shiny red peppers?

This is my yearly ritual around the winter solstice. This is my honoring of the deepening season when I know that everything important is going on beneath the earth’s chilly crust. I trust that pact with the earth. And why not? In the sixteen years of my gardening life, life has always come roaring back each spring independent of me, my losses and gains.

This past July, on the 7th of that glorious month to be exact, my sweet Jenny died. Of ovarian cancer, a brutal disease that brings the word “unfair” to mind though what is fair in this wide world? My cousin Jenny, eleven years younger, decades wiser, my cousin/sister/daughter/friend. A gardener much more knowledgeable than me, someone in love with life who really really didn’t want to go.

So in this solstice season I look out on my patch of earth and feel acutely the “thin places” as the Irish say—the bare unadorned winter when the veil between worlds is especially thin—then I bow to my grief and my joy (nearly one and the same these days) and dedicate this year’s garden to Jenny. May she guide my hands. May she get some dirt under her nails.

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  • John Shuman

    I was moved by your tribute in this the first post read on the new site. And I find the photo as moving. I can see someone who loves life. I am writing this from upstate New York while working with a University Drama Department. I am riveted- and this is a rare response from me – by the energy,the eagerness to learn and grow I am seeing from these students. On the walls of the school are enlarged photos of 6 students who died in the December 1988 plane crash over Scotland. I can not walk by without looking at Wendie Lincoln- she is fastening her ballet slipper while her attention is drawn to her left. The look on her face-mesmerizing- is one of fascination, wonder, awe and intense inquiry- it reveals one with an angelic joy to be learning. I never met this woman- nor Jenny- and I feel I know them. I feel the photos represent life at its most satisfying. May Jenny and Wendie guide all our hands…

    Reply
    • Susan Troccolo

      John, thank you so much for this. I appreciate the perspective of another young woman who lost her life in such a seemingly unfair way. But really, what do we know of “fair?” That intense inquiry you write about–that zest for life, Jenny had that too. It was as though she burned up a lifetime of thoughtful living in fewer years than the rest of us need to get there.

      It’s wonderful to hear you are working at a University Drama Dept. You are a perfect person for such work. Please do stay in touch about what you are learning. And thank you for writing in, it means a lot. Since we were able to find each other again after High School drama classes (!), I want to stay in touch.

      Reply
    • Susan Troccolo

      Thank you Donna. I really look forward to reading all the posts from your site about the solstice. It was your challenge to your readers that initiated my post about Jenny. Thank you.

      Reply
  • Susan, thanks for this thoughtful, poetic and moving post that communicates so eloquently the often inchoate feelings behind ordinary moments. Looking forward to more.

    Reply
    • Susan Troccolo

      Thanks Joel. It’s an honor to have you on these pages, first because I love your blog and second because you got me into this blogging business. I thank you for it. It feels right. You have opened the door for me to consider an “author’s blog” as a valid way to develop the themes I love and see where they lead.

      Reply
  • Dear Susie,
    I lite up when I saw your website — the tone, feeling, colors, type, it all says ‘Susie’! Congratulations on pulling it together. I know how much work it takes, and it shows an underlying care for connection that you are reaching out to your ‘community’ in this way.
    The tribute to Jenny through the garden I hope will help you stay in touch with the mystery of her suffering and your loss. I know when Dennis died we planted a memorial garden for him at Rachael’s school, and I planted three roses for him (that I have now made two moves with me!). Something about digging into the ground, planting, the dying away, the rebirth after winter, I don’t know, the cycles speak to some faith even in the midst of incomprehensible pain I have always felt deeply from you.
    Sending love,
    Sandy

    Reply
    • Susan Troccolo

      Hi Sandy, I had forgotten about your roses for Dennis, and the memorial garden at the school. It seems like such a natural thing to do, to use a garden to seek regeneration. I’m glad you like the site, it certainly will be about the cycles you speak of….Thank you for coming by on the solstice. May you and everyone you love be well and safe in every way in this holiday season.

      Reply
  • I found your blog through Donna’s meme, and I am moved by your post. I am so sorry for your loss. I do know by my own experience that the garden can be a very healing place to be. I hope you find peace and solace in your garden.

    Reply
    • Susan Troccolo

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, it is much appreciated. I also have found that a garden is a healing place to be and since Jenny taught me so much about gardening, it is especially the case. I visited your site and and enjoyed it very much! We are called the “City of Roses” here in Portland, so I relate to your love and focus on roses. I will visit there often.

      Reply
  • What an honor it must have been for Jenny to be your “cousin/sister/daughter/friend.” A beautiful tribute, Susie.

    Reply
    • Susan Troccolo

      Some days I try to remember if I told her that she was all those things. I think I did. My family is small and we chose not to have children, so Jenny meant so much. To me and to others too. Like her incredible wife, Sheila. I think as I get older some of the traditional roles become bigger, more inclusive. People can be more than one thing. Even people not belonging to your family of origin. So, thank you Robyn. I know you understand.

      Reply

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