Strawberry Fields Forever...
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER…
Put your heart into even the smallest, seemingly insignificant acts.
Then be patient!
Wait for the universe to give back to you what you’ve sown!
Two women were sitting at the table on which I’d placed a vase of fresh flowers, cut from the field outside my writing room earlier that morning. Wildflowers. Of many colors. They were beautiful. The flowers yes...but the women as well. At the time I had no idea the significance those flowers would have to one of those women. Not until she began talking about them...
“There was a time in my life when flowers were forbidden,” she said. “I bet you didn’t know this.”
The woman speaking was Elisabetta Mollinari, an old friend of Diana’s. Diana had always called her Betta. Betta stopped in for a visit a few weeks ago. Somewhat, but not completely, unexpectedly.
The two were old friends from high school and they’d not seen each other in more than thirty years. They ran into each other in the park in San Lazzaro one late afternoon a few weeks before. Diana was walking Meg when she saw a woman coming across a field, walking an Australian shepherd. The woman looked so familiar to her, though she could not readily place her...not until she was close enough to hear her calling out to the dog.
“Zoe! Vieni qui!” the woman shouted to her dog.
It was her voice Diana remembered. At that same moment, the two old friends recognized each other again...
“Diana?” the woman said, an equal mix of curiosity and excitement in her voice. “Is that you?”
“Betta?” Diana said. “Oh, dear God! Yes. It’s me. Is that really you?”
They talked for nearly an hour that afternoon. Meg the golden retriever and Zoe the Australian shepherd became instant friends as well. Realizing she was late for an appointment, Elisabetta kissed Diana and said goodbye, promising they’d get together for lunch or a coffee someday soon.
When Diana came home it was all she could talk about...she and Elisabetta had been the best of friends all throughout high school. They were on the swimming team together and shared art classes as well. Both of them went to the church of Santa Cecilia here in Croara.
Diana filled our afternoon with stories of their friendship. Seeing how much Elisabetta had meant to her, I suggested she invite her friend out to Terra d’Amore for lunch one day soon. I would make something special for them to eat and they could catch up with each other’s lives.
At first Diana shrugged off my suggestion. Diana prizes our privacy here. Few people get through that front gate unless they are invited. But she must have spent more time thinking about how close she and her friend once were...back all those many years. One day, Elisabetta showed up at the gate.
I was out there with Meg making a bit of noise and wearing earphones. I was busy knocking down some weeds, mowing the grass and tending to the rose bushes. I was pleasantly surprised when she introduced herself to me. I smiled and nodded my head. All I had to do was point down our lane. She understood.
Wanting to give the two of them a little time together, Meg and I lingered longer at the gate than need be. After a half hour or so, I looked at my watch. Then I looked at Meg...
“Are you ready?? I asked. “Let’s go make them lunch now. What do you think?”
Lunch was the magic word that Meg always responds to! And so off we went.
When we got back to the house, I put my tools and the mower in the barn. After taking off my boots as I’ve been taught, Meg and I went into the house through the door on the terrazzo that leads to the kitchen. Again, all I did was nod to the two of them as I walked by.
“I had a terrible, terrible marriage,” Elisabetta was confessing while the two of them sat out on the terrazzo. “He was a very cruel man. He wasn’t that way when I met him, but in those years, he became very abusive to me...very violent. He stripped me of even the smallest joys from life. He knew how much I loved flowers and the garden. I gave him too much power...I didn’t want to fight. I can’t believe I actually allowed him to forbid me to grow them or even to have them in my house! What kind of a man does that?”
“One of the first things Jimmy and I did when we bought the farm,” Diana began to say as she was pointing out across the terrazzo “was to plant that whole field of wildflowers outside his writing room window. He picked these for us today.”
“They are so beautiful, aren’t they?” Elisabetta said, gently fondling the flowers in the vase. “If I don’t have a fresh bouquet on my dining table, I have my paintings.”
As is my Diana, Elisabetta is an extremely talented watercolor artist. The two of them took classes together in Bologna when they were in high school. And now since they've become friends again, the two of them have been spending hours in Diana’s studio...
“Nowadays I make sure I see flowers everywhere around me,” Elisabetta said. “I’m not good at gardening any more though. I have a few back problems. I don’t want to talk too much about it really, but he hurt me very badly. I had to have a surgery. I can longer spend very much time on my knees or bending over. So, I paint more and more in these days. Much more than I used to. I guess that is a good thing. Don’t you think?”
I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but standing at the kitchen sink where I was, just inside from where they were sitting, I could not help but overhear what she was saying...
“I did make an attempt a few years ago to plant tulips in my garden,” she said. I’d seen a video on Youtube and fell in love with them.”
“I love them too,” Diana said. “I’ve always wanted to plant some near my garden.”
“Physically, for me, it was nearly impossible,” Elisabetta continued. “It wasn’t easy emotionally either...trying to fight off those old messages playing in my head, over and over again...telling me I didn’t deserve to be happy.”
As I was blanching the tomatoes for the bruschetta I planned to serve, Elisabetta told a story about the day the box of tulip bulbs arrived from Amsterdam...
"I’d ordered them online,” she began. “I had the best intentions of turning my little garden into a colorful paradise, starting with the tulips. But not being able to spend much time kneeling or bending over, it took me from eight in the morning until six that night to get them all planted."
Elisabetta was scrolling through the photographs on her phone, looking for the ones she’d taken of them earlier in the Spring...
“I only rested to take a quick break for lunch” she said. “I was so excited! I had them planted in different little beds here and there...gorgeous yellow and pink and white tulips! They were a part of a much bigger plan for my new single life.”
Not being able to find the photos, she put down her phone and continued...
“I waited. And I waited,” she said. “Weeks went by, and finally I began to see little signs of my tulips pushing their little heads up and out from the soil.”
“Oh I remember where my photos are now," she said.
Picking up her phone again, she began scrolling while still telling her story...
“My little tulips were struggling to turn and bend toward the sun forth, standing up straight and tall as if to say, “Io sono qui!” Here I am! I can’t begin to describe my excitement Diana! And then I waited some more. Though I did not count them as I planted, the invoice showed there were one hundred bulbs in the box. But I wasn’t seeing one hundred tulips sprout. Not all of them became flowers. Some did. Some didn’t.”
When she’d planted them, Elisabetta assumed all were going to be splashes of sunny yellow, beautiful pink and pure white flowers, contrasting so beautifully against the deep green colors of her garden...
“I envisioned my own journey, a life of change and growth,” she said, “as I awaited the rewards of my efforts. I even checked to make sure the little animals, like my hedgehogs, hadn’t dug up some of the bulbs. Didn’t seem as if they had...so still I waited.”
Frustrated over weeks of waiting, finally, Elisabetta called the company from which she’d bought the bulbs...
“Not all bulbs will bloom,” she was told by a woman with a Dutch sounding accent.
“This really upsets me,” Elisabetta answered. “Because I paid for one hundred tulips and that is how many I had expected to grow!”
“You just never know,” is all the woman on the phone could tell her. “We don’t always reap what we sow. Surely you know this madame. I am sorry. That is just the way it is.”
“Oh my goodness,” Elisabetta said to Diana. “Did those words ever take me to a different place! This tulip experience I was having reconnected me to something I’ve always known. She was right...the woman was right! We just never know what will grow in our lives and what won’t.”
Diana was listening intently, as she does with everyone she speaks with. And then she said something that just made my heart swell with pride and love for her. She has always seen things a bit differently. She comes from a place of love, acceptance and gratitude...
“Sometimes my garden surprises me here,” she said. “For instance. I hadn’t remembered planting strawberries or mint, but one day a few months ago while I was doing a bit of weeding, there they were, rising up in the middle of my carrots and cucumbers.”
Hearing Diana say this, I thought to myself that maybe the seeds had blown in from a neighbor's garden, though that is doubtful...our neighbors are not very close by. Or maybe they were buried in the dirt and I unearthed them when I dug some of the topsoil outside my greenhouse to spread in Diana’s garden just as spring was coming to Terra d’Amore this year. Or maybe this is just a clear case of reaping what we’ve sown in years gone by. I don’t really know.
“All I know is that it happened,” she said with a content smile. “It happened and we have enjoyed this unexpected bounty this year. Jimmy has made us strawberry shortcakes and I’ve put the mint in our tea. We’re ever so grateful and we’ve accepted it as one of those little, unexpected blessings life bestows on us from time to time. Maybe you might want to see your tulip garden this same way my dear friend. Maybe you just need to wait a bit longer. Who knows what might come up next year!”
There was truth in what Elisabetta had said...we just never really know what life will bring to us. But as we’ve all learned from this life, the very same thing can look completely different to two different people. Diana chose to accept what is and be grateful for it...and she recommended her friend do the same.
Planting a garden of any kind symbolizes hope. Hope in tomorrow. Hope that something beautiful is about to happen. But we don’t know which plants will survive, which seeds will be strong enough to withstand the changing seasons...which ones will flourish, and which will not.
Like our gardens, our lives are a reflection of our thoughts and our actions. If we want more love in our world, we need to create more love in our heart. If we want to be treated with kindness, we must treat others with kindness. This rule applies to everything in life. Life will give to us everything we give to it. But with love and gratitude and acceptance, we will find life will give us even more in return.