Leaving means letting go. Letting go means allowing the next thing to happen.
As Covid clumsily takes a few steps back, many of us are taking stock by looking back. Last year right about this time I was contemplating the impending sale of my home in Lakewood, Colorado. That home, now valued at something like $70k more than what I got for it, is in the loving hands of another family. Before I let it go, however, I had to let go of nearly fifty years of memories.
For my final fourteen years in Colorado, I owned a five-bedroom place surrounded by big old trees and protected out front by an aspen grove. For fans of Colorado birch, you know this is one huge, spreading organism. Aspens keep growing out and out, and their brilliant yellow or copper coloring in fall is one of the great beauties of living in high country.
I can't recall how many gorgeous hours I used to spend every September driving over or stopping at Kenosha Pass off 285. There is something majestic about watching the aspens flutter in the breeze, against the intense cobalt of a Colorado sky.
My then-husband and I would listen to Broncos football on the car radio, the windows wide open to let the cool air flow through the car, as John Elway's passes would arc to impossible heights. Eventually we'd lose the 850 AM broadcast signal, and commit ourselves to the rustle of the leaves, the sweet cold winds caressing our cheeks.
Colorado in fall is unbelievable. As the leaf season progresses, the aspens "shatter," their unique shape causing them to flutter like twisting gold coins to the ground. After nearly fifty years in the state, I never tired of the sight, even though I love the richer variety of deciduous forest, and hope someday to drive New Hampshire in leaf season to compare notes.
My house in Lakewood featured one of the last stands of aspen in the Green Mountain area, which is nestled next to CoorsTown, otherwise known as Golden, Colorado. I had a huge stand of old pine trees and a blue spruce in the back yard. When I bought the place in 2006, I had a 150-year-old walnut. That gorgeous source of shade and comfort succumbed to a fast-moving disease, which broke my heart, and stole away friendly places to build safe nests from many a bird. I later invested in a flaming maple, which won't be quite the same, but it sure will be pretty in autumn. Is already pretty in autumn.
Last April, as my real estate agent an her team and I methodically moved and packed all my boxes into a temporary storage, and fluffed up my beautifully landscaped grounds for home viewers, I took many turns around my yard to say goodbye. The cool ivy ground cover. The owl family which had taken up a spot in the pines over my bedroom window. The steady march of blooming perennials that had marked my time at that house since Day I, which I had finally learned to properly care for and appreciate.
My plants finally learned to trust me with shears, that I wouldn't cut a blooming perennial to make room for a milkweed. You learn.
More that once I wondered about whether I could let that garden go. This was the house where I had become a wilder. This was the house where I had become an adventure athlete. Red Rocks Amphitheatre, my beloved training ground, was barely fifteen minutes away. Could I really let go of nearly fifty years of history, a house that had warmed and held me close, then regularly pushed me out into the world to explore, push my boundaries? A home where I healed terrible injuries while watching my beloved aspens shatter in the front yard? A place where all my friends, cultivated over decades, still lived?
Leave all that?
Because while I left a professionally-landscaped yard in Denver to the Next Thing, that Next Thing was a yard which has blossomed incessantly for the last few weeks. From bleeding hearts...
...to all kinds of flowers that I have no names for, only wonder at their beauty. Spring in Eugene is full of birds and woodpeckers and hummingbirds and wrens and robins, all fighting over the suet stations and feeders that I installed.
To say nothing of the ancient firs whose needles translate the evening breezes into susurrating conversations, blowing the white petals of the trees that have come alive in my yard all over my deck.
Last November, I planted two coral bark Japanese Maples in my yard. They pushed down roots, settled in, and are bursting out in leaf. And on top of that, there is a brand new volunteer maple that I am about to pot, to save it from landscaper's busy feet as they plant clover to keep the yard cool.
The other night, I stood up to my ankles in St. John's Wort, which will itself sprout beautiful yellow flowers this summer. The one big cherry in the corner of my yard was dripping petals in the late afternoon cat's paw swirls of air. I stood quietly, allowing the petals to touch my face and flutter away.
Letting go also means making room for what's next.
The winds will take us wherever they will. We will land. As a sign in my laundry room says, "grow where you are planted."
I plan to bloom here. Now I'm gonna go pot my Japanese Maple.