It is important to keep moving. I find myself spending too much time at the computer these days. I blame the weather as we move into the darker colder days of the year. Or perhaps I should blame the computer where I am only a click away from pictures of my beautiful roses from just a few months ago. I know that those who sit, tend to keep sitting and those that regularly exercise, are motivated to continue. So I charge on.
Up until this summer I was going to the gym where I would work my back and abdominal muscles on the machines and walk on the treadmill. As one gets older, they lose height and as a result of this I could no longer use the machines which were already on the lowest setting. Instead, I walk down the drive to the gate and back twice a day. This was easier in the warmth of summer. Still, on sunny days, I enjoy the walk down and sitting at the gate with my face toward the sun, saturated in the memories that my home and rose gardens elicit.
From the gate, I look up the gentle rise to the house that sits at the summit, surrounded by roses. It looks like an old farmhouse, perhaps a type of east coast colonial dwelling, but actually, it is fairly new. Max and I built it together, with our own hands, in the late 1980s using a traditional design from a magazine and inspired by our imagination. David Austin’s early English roses surround the house and are still offering soft romantic blooms. I can see “Pierre de Ronsard (Eden Rose)” with its buxom cup-shaped flowers of cream blending into a rich pink petal edge. It’s described as a moderate grower but this one is up over the eaves of the house and onto the roof. Many of the Austins are shrub roses but are vigorous enough to be used as climbers, which I did. I used to try to keep most of them pruned back to their shrub form and off of the sidewalk because of their thorns, but I find I like a more natural wild free form. Max used to complain that they were trying to take his sweater off and comb his hair, so I promised I would do better.
Our differences were evident in how we managed the rest of the property. Always a compromise, but the result was wonderful. I love roses in the trees and color flowing everywhere, up and over fences, trellises, and the roofs of the buildings. Max preferred to “park it out,” his phrase for a well-kept park like setting for unencumbered mowing.
We built fences completely around the perimeter of the property to keep our sled dogs in and the coyotes out. Soon they were draped in climbing roses of many sorts. These roses, most 30 years old, are the first ones that visitors see when they arrive. Most are once blooming but there are still a few blooms along with fantastic hips that I can see from the gate today.
As I look up the long curved gravel driveway that leads to the house, I see the several varieties of Japanese ornamental cherries that line the side between the drive and the front fence, and further down, the Old Garden Roses. I look forward to the cherries’ glorious cloud of pink and white flowers in the spring. On the left side of the drive are some native trees that were here when we bought the property, one being a giant maple. The maple is actually made of many maple starts that fused together over time. With its mosses and lichens and twisted lower trunk it has a wise, old world, peaceful character about it. It is here that I want my ashes to be buried so I will become part of the maple tree.
About 20 feet away from the maple there was once a wild cherry which supported “The Garland.” This climbing rose grew into the higher branches of the cherry, which had an earlier bloom, and gave it a second bloom. Anyone looking more closely might think they were seeing big clusters of light pink and white daisies, but these are the unique daisy-like flowers produced by this partly wild rose. Roses such as this one that produce small flowers in clusters and grow vigorously after the flowers have bloomed in the late spring or summer are sometimes called ramblers. Most ramblers, like their wild rose ancestors, do not repeat their bloom a second time in one season. “The Garland”, which dates back to 1835, is thought to be the offspring of Rosa moschata and Rosa multiflora. Rosa moschata is a very old garden variety not found in the wild, but it it closely related to Rosa brunonii, a wild rose from the Himalayas. Rosa multiflora is a wild rose from the Far East, which has taken on the negative label of invasive as a result of its vigorous growth. I had to have the cherry removed and was afraid that “The Garland” would lose its footing, but it has come back and is starting to run up the maple, having found the first two branches to support its saunter upward. That will be spectacular.
The crows have returned for handouts. I forgot to bring their food today and they let me know. They took up residence in the spruce trees beyond the west fence about 10 years ago, and I gladly assisted in supplying food to establish the rookery. Last year the trees came down to make way for a new house. The crows left the neighborhood. This summer they began to return and our conferences by the gate have resumed. They are smart birds and I love to watch their antics.
The warmth of the sun and my daydreaming caused me to nod off. I tell Teddie to let me know when I’ve taken too much of her time and need to head back. She responds that she has brought her clippers and weeding gloves so I should let her know when I want to go back up. We do this a couple of times and then I stand up, turn my walker around, and head up the drive stopping to admire the Old Garden Roses. The hips on Rosa sancta (richardii) convey the profusion of single, medium sized, light pink flowers before them. An ancient rose, Rosa sancta grows in Ethiopian churchyards. Dried roses in wreaths placed in Egyptian tombs dating to 170 AD have been identified as Rosa sancta.
The ascent to the house is more difficult than the descent. I raise my voice and with confidence say, “Marcher ou mourir!” (march or die). We laugh and then its onward to the house.