Et tu, Brute….
This is about betrayal. In the garden.
Way back in high school, I had Latin class for three years. I had no idea of course that Latin would serve me so well: learning plant botanical names was way down the road but because of my Latin studies I had a much easier go of it than my classmates; and a familiarity with classic architecture was surely a benefit in my pursuit of a landscape design degree At the time, though, I loved the Greek and Roman mythology most of all. The stories were are real to me as if they were happening right then. Plus there was fun: we were allowed to wear togas to school on occasion. We also had a different name that we could use in class. I became, for a few hours a week, “Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn.” (First a digression with something from the story of Aurora: Aurora married a mortal and made the command that he live forever. She neglected, though, to indicate he was also to have eternal youth, so her husband kept growing older and older and older but couldn’t die. Feeling huge sympathy—on the goddess scale, that is, so it probably wasn’t really much—she turned her husband into a grasshopper. How generous of her. I don’t remember learning much about their relationship dynamic, but at least she didn’t have to look at him wrinkled up and all. I suppose there was justice for her decision in there somewhere.)
Back to topic. We read in Latin: Caesar’s Gallic Expeditions, The Iliad, The Odyssey. I remember being amazed at the violence of these stories: there was a good deal of war, sibling rivalry, and betrayal. All the major sins illustrated in volume with plenty of god-like drama. Things haven’t changed much with humans in three thousand years. The words, “Et tu, Brute,” certainly lingered for me. Betrayal is a hard enough idea to stomach; even more difficult coming at the hands of someone who you love and trust. I feel betrayed right at this moment by Mother Nature; she has stabbed me in the heart with a big dagger of ice. I thought we were friends, partners. I have worked so hard to showcase her beauty and charm with flowers, trees, herbs. Yes, there was a certain element of foreboding, like the rising action in a Greek Drama: we had all that untimely warm and mild weather so plants had the signal that all was well. All this despite the warnings that the cold weather enemy might be approaching the garden gate. When the recent scary cold came on, in beautiful bloom were Daffodil, Hellebore, even some ‘Georgia Blue’ Veronica; the Star Magnolia was just showing its first bright and clean white; buds were split for flowering on the Serviceberry revealing just a blush of pink. All that anticipation, expectation, thrill—lost. I haven’t had the heart to check the Camellia but I suspect the buds are now frozen shut and dead. Adding insult to injury, yesterday’s storm, in every form of precipitation we could imagine, was followed by a deep freeze and each plant in the garden is under a coating of ice. The Southern Magnolia is bent over by a third; the Bayberry is bent forward to the ground. A huge limb from neighbor Hank’s Bradford Pear is stretched across his lawn. (I admit to not really feeling sorry much about that; Bradford Pears are not a tree worth anyone’s landscape.)
What is left? By morning I see that some plants have begun to find the strength within to pull upright; the wind overnight shook free some of the ice, lightening the loads. There is also help from the shining sun which I hope will melt some more ice from the boughs. The early perennials are hugging the ground and appear to be holding their own. Hope, in mythology, was at the bottom of Pandora’s box and what was left after destruction was unleashed into the world. Hope is what I’m holding on to, one of the things that lasts.
And what I get to keep.