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Image by Suhyeon Choi
Avenue of Flowers
By Kirk Wareham

Let the wildflower speak to you, its poetry, its song, its story, Grandma murmurs to Spring.

Down the Avenue of Flowers, Grandma Elsie skips arm in arm with Spring.


It is a year since their last meet and greet, since they last tripped barefooted along the lane to the cheerful chirrup of robins and the trickle of snow melting in the ditch. Warblers flit through bushes now tinged with a hopeful green. Grandma and Spring are light on their feet and bursting with gladness, and they dance with unabashed delight, the sun tossing joy into their upturned faces.


Spring is an enthusiastic young fellow, and Grandma is very fond of him. He arrives each year, newly refreshed and brimming with vigor, a daffodil jaunty in his jacket and a merry laugh on his lips. “Next year in Antarctica,” he seems to say with a teasing grin, as he bids farewell to Old Man Winter with a congenial tip of the hat.


Old age, Grandma Elsie has discovered, brings stiff challenges. Though her round face is wrinkled as a dried raisin, and the twinge in her left knee does not spare her some days, she remains a sparky old soul, full of heart and spirit and enthusiasm for life, and the light of heaven still shines clearly out through her eyes. Already diminutive in stature during her prime, Grandma has dwindled further, and now, like a mouse scurrying to its hole in the corner, she can easily be lost in a crowd. She knows only that today is today, and tomorrow may never come, and that God is forever.


Near Grandma’s old stone house on Glory Hill is the Well of Souls. The well is nothing if not a rusty pipe protruding from a muddy bank and a small reflective pool below. The water of life gushes unfailingly from it, and devotees of its goodness come from every corner of the county to fill their jugs. “Meet you at the well,” is frequently the glad refrain, and mothers arrive with youngsters in backpacks and strollers. As they fill their jugs, they share community and friendship around the Well of Souls.


And look at the flowers!


Close by the pool, Grandma Elsie has planted hundreds of them! Clumps of white snowdrops, huddling like sheep in a storm. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, crocuses, violets, aconites. Forsythia bushes, curving stems radiant with yellow blossoms. The water flowing from the Well of Souls moistens and softens the good brown soil, and slowly the flowers have spread and turned the lane into a profusion of color, an Avenue of Flowers.


Down the years, the word has spread, and in season, friends and neighbors come from all sides. Some, wishing to remember the annual celebration, boldly mark their calendars with a red flourish. Visitors remember the good times when the world was fresh and new, before Struggle and Hardship thrust cold steel into their hearts and minds. In a sometimes-weary world, the Avenue of Flowers is an oasis of joy.


But when it comes to weeds, Grandma Elsie pulverizes them regularly and without remorse. “Take that, my friend,” she says, cheerfully dismembering a dastardly invasive and tossing the remnants down the bank. Those who know her well, comment that Grandma features prominently in Proverbs 31:17: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for the task.”


The human spirit, Grandma says, can quickly become smothered by the detritus of modern living, but given the opportunity, it re-emerges triumphantly in nature. Left behind are the twisted confines of brick and mortar, the wide metropolitan jungles of concrete. Happy voices of children echo as they clamber into the hills, collecting sap from the sugar-maple grove, to be boiled and stirred and tasted until transformed into sweet golden syrup. The last gray banks of snow have withered and vanished.


Ziggy, Grandma’s beloved canine companion, is gone now, his body planted lovingly under the willow along the stream. His once-cheerful bark has been swallowed up in silent grief, but now his spirit is free forever. The ginger cat still crouches in the meadow, ever watchful for the twitch of a mouse or mole in the long grass.


“Let the wildflower speak to you, its poetry, its song, its story,” Grandma murmurs to Spring. “Better to sit beneath a living oak, feeling the pulse of life and hearing the voice of the Universe, than to sit on a pew made from a hewn tree, breathing recirculated air, and listening to the words of mere humans!”


Grandma shares her springtime frolic with all who join her. Bumblebees and butterflies. A silent slithering cougar at the salt lake in the wee hours of the morning. A sun-filled morning in April. A black spider’s intricate web of silver. Newly formed mushrooms on the forest floor after a rainstorm. Two carefree urchins in the high loft of a red clapboard barn gazing spellbound into a nest holding five perfectly white eggs, the labor of love and family-to-be of the tree swallows. Perfume of honeysuckle at sunset with the sickle moon lingering precariously in the dark sky.


A yellow-and-black butterfly touches down on a daffodil, and Grandma stops her caper for a moment to watch, and to catch her breath. Perhaps what she heard was only the chirp of a white-throated sparrow, or a skunk cabbage unfurling its fine first leaf, or the warm breeze sighing. But then she is filled with a sudden certainty---the Creator of all this beauty was whispering to her!


That voice always makes Elsie smile. Perhaps, she tells Spring, a smile alone in nature is the equivalent of a standing ovation in a crowd.


Grandma Elsie smiles again, and breathes a prayer of thanks, for the goodness of the earth, for love and peace, for her dance with Spring, for the Avenue of Flowers.

Image by Thomas Griggs

Kirk Wareham is a father of six, a grandfather of six, a lover of nature, and an avid reader. My passion for reading led him to a love of writing. Kirk's works have been published by Notre Dame Magazine, Snowy Egret, Potato Soup Journal, Passager Journal, Plough Publishing House, Like The Wind Magazine, Woods Reader, Agape Review, Halfway Down The Stairs Magazine, Corvus Review, and Rockford Writers Guild.

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