I saw an old love the other day, and it just about broke my heart.
Where once his frame had been slight and slender, almost fragile in appearance, he was now big and strong. Where once he had been easy to overlook, he now stood out in a crowd. He had become a star.
And seeing him there, looking amazing, gave me the most peculiar feeling of sadness and joy; longing and satisfaction. I was, of course, happy to see him doing well. But it was hard to be that close to him and not be able to reach out and touch his leaves.
My love’s name is Don Egolf. He’s a tree.
I saw him while passing by my old house the other day. It was in this small Center City yard where my husband and I cut our teeth as gardeners. Don Egolf, a dwarf variety of Chinese redbud, is one of more than 100 specimens packed into that half-acre, and I miss them all terribly.
It is bittersweet to pass by that property today and see what it has become. The once-small trees and shrubs we put into the ground years ago are now mature plants. As proud as I am to be able to say I had some hand in their creation, it absolutely kills me that I’m not there to see them up close, and witness every glorious stage of their maturation.
This is one of the things about gardening, though. Like child-rearing, it is a strange combination of the ephemeral and the eternal. It is a meditation on letting go, and on the impermanence of things.
When you plant a tree, or have a child, you are making a contribution to the world, however small, that has the potential to send ripples outward for generations beyond its lifespan. On the other hand, the individual moments you share with it are so precious and fleeting, and its existence so fragile, that as much as we may want to fix them in time forever, they remind us that change is the only true constant.