By Amanda Cleary Eastep
I pinch seeds like fuzz from a winter coat.
It is the last day of visiting my cousin. Every one of his homes has seemed a retreat to me. He incessantly has his eye on some dilapidated structure full of hoarder treasure or bat guano, yet he somehow sees past the cracked plaster to the solid wood frame and envisions a tower where only weeds rise up.
There’s a ‘beauty from ashes’ type of lesson in this, one I never noted in words until now, but that he planted like a seed in my mind when I was young and I slept in a lovely room with an antique bed in a house where previously an old man died among his treasured trash.
At each house my cousin Butch has reimagined, rescued really, he has surrounded it with flowers and places to sit and sip coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. And to talk and laugh.
I’m going to plant the seeds from the spiky thistle-like perennials and the Black Eyed Susans and the columbine in my small garden where my husband and I sit on Saturday mornings drinking coffee and dreaming about a home in the mountains.
As I’ve planted my own garden, I’ve thought about what I might bring with me, like I once did with the rosebush my grandmother and I planted when I was 11. When we moved from our house in the country, the rosebush moved to my grandmother’s front yard, and when she had her first stroke and had to sell her house, the rosebush moved to the flower garden of my first home, and when I divorced, the rosebush was dug up and rescued by my father and planted in his front yard.
It struggled as much as I did for two years and died. Years after my grandmother already had.
This visit to Butch’s feels different. Even my youngest daughter, now 17, noticed. Things are going to change, she said.
I’ve been coming to Wisconsin to visit my cousins since I was 2. My mother first visited when she was 18 for her honeymoon, which she and my father celebrated at the small farmhouse of his cousin–Butch’s mom–and her other seven children. This year we ordered a cake to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary.
Yes, things are going to change. They already have. Some of my eight cousins are grandparents now, and some of their children barely remember me or my brother. We don’t visit as often as we did when we were young. But some of our children are planting seeds of friendship, writing letters like old-fashioned pen pals.
That’s why I’m especially intent on saving seeds this time. As I hold them in my palm, they remind me how what we plant grows and spreads and is planted somewhere else, in someone else.
The seeds remind me how lessons we learn or words we say or hugs we give or memories we make take root and become gardens in us.
Photos by Meg