A Window Framed by Love

- an excerpt  from The Daily Muse - Tom Spencer's Soul of the Garden

(written a few days after the terror attacks of 9/11)

I have been thinking about memory a good deal lately- about how the events of the past week serve as a challenge to our culture's ability to sustain memory and resolve. The impatient nature of our culture reduces our capacity for memory, encouraging instead a packaged nostalgia, something that can be sold. Years from now, will we remember our feelings at this moment, and what has been done? And more importantly, when we respond, as we must, will we remember who we are? I fear that the absense of memory will lead to lack of sustained action, or worse still, actions that sink us to the terrorist's level. In either case, all will be lost.

Memory has a role to play in our gardens as well. It often seems to me that my own garden is rooted in memories of a childhood surrounded by nature's beauty and sheltered by a loving family.

Years ago, I was attending a board retreat for the Seton Cove, and the facilitator asked us to think about the welcoming physical atmosphere of the Cove. He suggested that we think about anything that had caught our eye that morning as we came in and to meditate on it. I remembered that before I passed through the door I spent a moment or two with a beautiful yellow iris that I had transplanted there from my own garden. So, I chose to meditate on that. The color of the iris seems to be the key to what followed....

Initially, all I did was fidget in my chair, but slowly my thoughts started to drift. After a few moments I found myself transported back to the bedroom I shared with my brother when we were growing up.

It was a spring morning, and I was just rousing myself from sleep. As I lay amid the tangle of my sheets and covers I heard a bird that I recognized as a "wild canary" singing outside of our window. (It was probably a warbler or goldfinch.) My brother, sister and I felt a special reverence for these bright yellow birds. They seemed to appear magically, visiting the meadow grasses and flowers in the field behind our home for a brief time every spring, before moving on.

I jumped from bed to watch them. The sun warmed my arms as I rested them on the window sill and a slight breeze lifted the curtains letting the birdsong drift in. A dogwood tree, planted by my father, was blooming just a few feet away, and the birds were hard at work harvesting seeds. As I sat in the Seton Cove meeting room, I remembered the distinctive smell of the wooden sill and remembered too that I could hear my parents talking in the kitchen. My mom was preparing breakfast and the scent of coffee and bacon mingled with the reassuring sound of their voices. Sitting there in my chair, now lost in memory, I recalled the profound sense of thankfulness and awe I felt- I remembered that somehow, in my child-like way, I knew how very fortunate I was to be there, framed by that window, and by the love and sacrifice that made the peace of that moment possible. I remembered thinking, "Surely, this is what God wants for us all."

We forget how many children around the globe will never know such a morning. Until a few days ago, most of us took for granted the bounty of our tables, our safety, our very good fortune.

The roots of our gardens grow deep in the labors and loves of those who came before us. Let us cherish their memory, holding fast to our hopes that our children's children will someday peek outside of windows framed by love.


A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.

- Rachel Carson

Excerpted from the September 2001 edition of  The Daily Muse

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