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Trees of green

red roses, too

By Mary Ann CallahanPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Trees of green
Photo by Kyle Sudu on Unsplash

I’m from Upstate New York, the southern central part along the Pennsylvania border. The very first memories I have of my valley are the rolling hills that surround it, and the trees that cover them. They form a delicate wood filled with lush green undergrowth and several varieties of endearing little animals who inhabit it. And at home, my mother’s large garden produced an abundance of vegetables and flowers which kept both our bodies and souls fed.

Back then, a popular song by famous trumpeter Louis Armstrong spoke of how wonderful the world was. Part of the song’s lyrics tells of seeing “trees of green, red roses, too", and that was pretty much my view of the world as well. I said to myself, "it's a wonderful world". I was so happy in it.

Then I grew up, and the rest of the world flooded in. First, I worked with refugees from conflicts from a whole other world. They came into mine seeking a new and better life. They told stories of a world of great cruelty and devastation that was the opposite of the world I had known.

Later, I actually went to a place where war and devastation could be seen and felt. I spent nine years in that world trying to help Afghanistan build a more stable nation. I lived in a place where there were no gentle hills, no lush woods and wildlife, no comfort, and no peace.

When I finally returned to the valley, I found the contrasts of those two worlds a bit hard to reconcile. Surely, all the suffering and desolation in that other world I was how things really were. And this lovely place, this precious valley of mine, was the exception to the rule. Surely what I had thought was normal was not. So, could I just resume my old life? Could I just go back to being the innocent creature I had once been? A diagnosis of breast cancer only added to my dilemma.

And I said to myself what other evils could happen? Could any part of my happy former life be restored when so much in the world, and me, was so wrong? What job, what pastime, what hobby would now seem a worthwhile thing to do? Was anything of value anymore?

Then my valley home came to my rescue. I began to roam the hills, walking in the gentle shade of their woods. I saw chipmunks and squirrels and, wonder of wonder, graceful deer with their young. I smiled and breathed in the fresh air as I took it all in.

And I began to work again in my garden.

At first, I had to assess the years of neglect I had caused. I had to clear the flower beds, taking them back to their beginnings. I had to get rid of the things that were choking out the beauty of the garden just as I had to rid myself of things that were choking out my own sense of beauty. The first year was brutal, with more being pulled and trimmed back than nurtured and enjoyed. I worked in little spurts when the chemotherapy allowed me the energy to do so. But I persevered, and, with the cleansing of the yard, slowly my soul was being cleansed.

In the second year, my returning strength and new plantings, with their tiny leaves, brought hope. I began to be able to focus on the audacity of those little green shoots that grew with my tender loving care. Slowly, I realized even my efforts in Afghanistan, which had seemed so futile, might still produce growth someday. By the third year, the positive changes in my garden were proof of restoration and the renewal of hope. The things I had given up on as lost were not. They were still there.

Now, my beautiful, lush garden is a beloved companion. The Hosta varieties, so little a few seasons ago, are now gigantic and are framed with borders adorned with the lovely copper tape that keeps the slugs at bay. They grow under the gentle shading of the maple trees that have become central figures of peace and stability. My peonies, or rather, my mother’s peonies, have been revived. Their creamy petals reflect beauty and abundance as they dance in the spring breezes. Even the old Seven Sisters' rose bush that I was so sure was dead has come back. It now rests upon an ornate wrought iron trellis that cradles its lush green stems now crowned with clusters of fragrant pink petals.

Along the fences bordering the property, giant evergreens, no taller than I was when I planted them, tower as they surround my little world. They are green sentries standing guard over it all.

This “hobby” of mine was hard work, but it is a profound one. It has produced tangible results and inner personal benefits that were once unimaginable. My hobby has taught me that each of us has the power to make a difference in our world. We can make something good wherever we are. I have learned that despite the evil that presses in around us, beauty and regenerating life, even in small pieces, are still possible. The world is truly worth the effort.

But perhaps the best part of what my valley and my gardening hobby have given me is their quiet beauty and their awesome strength. They have shown me that despite all the bad, crazy things in this seemingly mad world, Mr. Armstrong’s signature song was right…it is [still] a wonderful world.


About the Creator

Mary Ann Callahan

I live in Upstate New York, one of the most beautiful places in the United States. But I also have spent many years working in some of the most broken places on Earth.

My hope is that those expereinces will produce great stories .

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    Mary Ann CallahanWritten by Mary Ann Callahan

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