Sunday, 2 November 2014
A vernal flush quickens the bright Autumn grass. Beneath the lichened, mossy boughs of the apple trees in my mother's garden, their fall cushioned by the lush verdure, lie the glowing fruits that this year we have not had opportunity to pick. In the blonde light of a balmy afternoon just past the Equinox, my mother and I stoop to the task of gathering the fallen harvest, filling tub and basket, trug and bucket, between us the easy conversation of those enjoying their labour and each other's company.
Unhurried, pausing often to point out to each other the tiny, delicate brown toadstools threading the grass, we step from deep dewy shadow to brilliant glade, the low sunlight gilding the venerable old trees and touching my mother's silvery hair with fire. We speak of homely things, comparing recipes for apples baked with dried fruits of the vine, honey and bitter pungent peel, remarking on how many leaves there are yet to fall, reminiscing about past afternoons spent thus, all the while, the beneficient warmth of the late sun on our skin, the unspent dewfall glittering as though a bushel of diamonds had been cast across the lawns.
Something other than the little toadstools, the abundant fruit, the first fallen, papery leaves catches my attention, gives me pause to bend low to pick it up, and gasp with surprised pleasure at my find. It is a fragment of a garden ornament, fashioned from painted metal much weathered, but otherwise intact; a hummingbird of deepest emerald, tawny patina of rust marking the wingtips and long, tapered bill as though intended.
My mother is curious as to what it is that I have found, and I unfurl my fingers to show her the little bird in the palm of my hand, at pains to quell my desire to possess it. My barely supressed longing must have shown in my face, for my mother asks me as gently as though I were still a child, if I should like to keep it. Moved and tremulous, I breathlessly whisper my affirmation and thanks, thrilled by this unlooked for souvenir, unexpectedly gifted to me by the beloved garden and it's loving custodian.
I shall not forget that golden September afternoon, the sense of being infinitely priviledged in my companion and my surroundings, the bequeathed garden yet echoing to the presence of my father, as though my mother and myself were attended by his gentle spirit, and I have always, as precious and lovely keepsake, the hummingbird, talisman and charm against the day when my mother and the garden are no more.