This past week John and I did a bit of gardening. We had a rosemary bush being shaded by another bush and I wanted to move it. So we prepared the new spot where it was to go, dug the new hole and went over to our lovely rosemary bush. Now you should know I planted this bush 6 or 7 years ago and I haven’t touched it to really prune it in 5 years. That means it wasn’t a small bush. For the last 5 years it has been doing a wonderful job of growing as it now stood nearly 5 feet tall and had a spread of closer to 6 feet. But, we started pruning and pruning, and pruning. Some of the branches were more than an inch thick and really woody (great in our fireplace though). After being prickled and rosemary scented by our bush we got down to digging the roots up. I never knew this about rosemary but it puts down ROOTS, not little roots, big ones and deep. Also, they extended farther than the drip line of the bush which made finding the ends of the plant actually very difficult. We ended up cutting a lot of roots because we couldn’t find where they stopped. But we moved our tenacious plant and got it planted in its new home and it is doing well enjoying all the sun it wants and lots of water.
After we were finished and cleaning up I remembered something about rosemary. First of all rosemary, in flower language, means remembrance and that sweet, huge, tough bush reminded me of just how persistent our memories are. Deep within each of us lives a world that was. Sometimes it surfaces when we least expect it whether we want it to or not. But our past makes us who we are and embracing the happy, the sad, the good with the bad memories helps balance our present. Learning from my past mistakes and successes provides me with a road map for my way forward. All of those memories connect me to something greater than just this single moment in time. It is also the memories of those who modeled the best of their lives which have led me to being a better person in my own life.
It is the memory of my parents and how they loved and cared for me that has taught me to be a more loving and caring wife, friend, and grandmother. It was my parent’s determination to model a life that included people of all backgrounds, races, genders, and abilities that has given me a passion for my openness to those who are different from me. It was my father’s love of creation and prayer and silence that has been my model for my spiritual growth throughout my life. It was a first grade teacher’s kindness to this wounded child that taught me anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
The memories I have of wandering open fields, lying in new mown grass, making storybook figures out clouds, and reading a book while I sat in the crook of an old apple tree gave me a love of open spaces. I have precious memories of being awakened at midnight to watch the Aurora Borealis with my father, or going out to our barn to watch as calves or puppies were born that hold a special place in my heart. It is remembering thunder storms roll across our fields and listening as the rain pummeled the tin roof of our barn, or rushed through the branches of the huge pine tree that was just outside my bedroom window that draws me into a place of contemplation and peace like nothing else can.
It is the memory of pulling a deep fat fryer full of hot grease down on top of me that reminds me that accidents happen but I am not alone even in the worst of times. It is the memory of a child in the hospital bed next to me who died during the night that taught me that fresh grief is always inconsolable. It is the memory of uncaring questions by adults and taunts of other children that taught me that sometimes people can be cruel. The memory of my father’s death from cancer keeps me asking “why” questions of God and doubting the fairness of life the Scripture tells me is good. It was being laid off for a year that taught me to let go of my fears, face them, then hand them over to the all surrounding presence that has always been in my life. It is the memory of my discovery of how much I have been surrounded by the Spirit that has changed me from who I was into the person I am today. Memories are the soil of our lives; mine goes deep with plenty of memory leaf compost and with each day. With each new memory made the soil gets deeper and richer.
The best part is that each of us has our own bed of memories to draw upon. Some are wonderful, insightful memories, some are horrid memories we would rather forget entirely, but by facing them we turn those bad memories into rich memory compost. Even the memories of death and destruction have a place in our lives, just as the memories of our mother’s arms around us does. Each memory adds to who we are and allows us to see who we were. Memories are the mirrors of our soul and how our soul has grown into who we are. For the good and bad memories are who we are. In learning to live with what we remember gives us the skills we need to live in the world we share with all of creation.
Creation, life, isn’t always fair or beautiful to our eyes. But, we don’t see the big picture; we see only our very small portion. Like an ant on a forest floor the view of our individual world of reality is very small. What we remember of our past helps us see the greater picture. Memories give us a wider view of the life that lies before us and behind us. Our memories connect us to those we have loved, and hated, giving us a past to live from.
Not having a past cuts us off from our life today. It is the reason those with Alzheimer’s, dementia or traumatic brain injuries that affects memory feel so cut off from the world around them. They have nothing to compare today with so how do they know what today means; how do they relate to people and the world around them. The greatest gift we can give those who cannot remember is to give them a piece of their past to ground them in the now moment of their lives and to do it every moment, every hour, every day we are with them. The joy of someone who discovers their own past is amazing and life giving.
Memories are the soil we stand on, the ground of our lives that allows us to live better lives today and tomorrow. Rosemary, the plant of remembrance, is tough, strong, and sweet and I want to remember my yesterdays to make my tomorrows tough, strong, and sweet.
Ruth Jewell ©April 30, 2013