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Rise. Bloom. Fade

Over the years—make that decades—I have been a character in many plays. Teacher. Administrator. Trainer. Interesting fields like art and media and raising children.

Currently, I dabble as an art educator and writer.

A fulfilling line of credits in my portfolio. But try as I might, I can’t get away from my down-to-the-bone passion.


If this conjures Leave it to Beaver or Family Ties for you, that might have been correct in my long-ago days as a wife and mother and daughter. No longer. I am a woman without a country.

Before you cry for me, let me assure you I am beyond contented. Contented in my role as a home maker which also includes garden maker.

The nest if you will . . .

I take great pleasure in dressing my dining room table for a starring role in a dinner party. Love rearranging furniture and bookshelves as a kind of re-staging. Adding lights!

I never tire of change in my surroundings. Could be because I’ve lived in thirty-eight homes over my years—uh-oh, make that decades again—and I imagine I’ll spend my remaining years in this way-off-Broadway location. Southern California. Not bad for a road show . . .

This morning, over a late cup of coffee, I stayed with the New York Times longer than usual. The death of Francoise Gilot hit close to my heart, having just re-read her candid memoir, My Life with Picasso. I have currently engaged in a deep dive into the history of the Salk Institute in La Jolla which prompted my to return to Gilot. After Picasso, she married Jonas Salk the medical researcher who discovered the cure for polio.

This coincided with the installation of her painting done in 1957, Le Tapis Rouge at The San Diego Museum of Art, part of its current feature exhibit, Modern Women. This exhibition, along with the extraordinary Georgia O’Keeffe-Henry Moore special exhibition through August has kept me at the museum often these days. Both are fabulous!

Francoise Gilot 0 Le Tapis Rouge, 1957

An article about another San Diego Padres loss almost ruined my morning, but I managed to control my rage and continue skimming with the intent of getting on with my day.

“Why You Can’t Really Be a Gardener Without Mindfulness,” a most provocative headline stopped my forward motion. Margaret Rosch, the writer, in her first sentence pulled me in describing her subject as “the gardener, someone who—for a portion of each day, over a career’s worth of years—knelt for hire, often pulling weeds.

The fortunate and famous subject reminisced saying “he knew his employers in the big house, wine glasses in hand, would look out and see him in his posture of humility and perhaps say, “the gardener is here,” as if he were nameless and this was his only purpose on earth.

I instantly became a garden groupie to Marc Hamer, who after a career as a full-time estate gardener in Wales, has published a trilogy of garden-themed memoirs in the past years. Arriving at my doorstep 5pm this afternoon.

Amazon Prime.

Hamer wrote that when his knees had had enough, he retired but not without commenting in a profound manner, “kneeling in the garden felt like bowing to the world that made me.”

I no longer kneel in my garden. Titanium put an end to that. But I go to my garden with mindfulness, be it to cry, muse, or frolic. My garden is full of solace at times, and like a theater lobby, full of friends and family at other times. Such moments of communion whether alone or with others are extraordinary.

My favorite, late night with him, a shared glass of brandy, thoughtful conversation, moody music, and a chocolate chip cookie.

A garden can be so many, many things. A performance in three acts.

Rise. Bloom Fade.

Now for me, as for Marc Hamer, the garden is a metaphor for life. His life. My life. He wrote, “in the garden, you are very much aware that your existence is for a very short period of time, and that you are just like the plants are, rising and blooming, and then fading.”

This could be morose. Instead, I find it hopeful and satisfying.

I watch Alex, my gardener friend, thoughtfully prune and care for not only the new rising shoots, but for the aged, even withering friends that have been with us for so long. Pruning, watering, fertilizing, and often relocating my potted plants. The variegated Euphorbia and the Star Pine which I brought from my last home in Pauma Valley have found energy in their new locations.

Change is invigorating.

It’s time to move the fiddle leaf plant which has outgrown the ceiling height in my bedroom; I’ll bring it down the stairs to the living room where it can stretch and grow madly before reaching the sixteen-foot teak carved ceiling and serve as live green showstopper. I need to mention that I rescued both the plant and the copper pot from the street in front of my friend, Gail’s house. She had put a “Free” sign on it and thankfully, I drove up just in time.

While I’m at it, I’ll add a white Dakota Fig tree to my garden. He likes figs.

The concept of moment mori is an important part of western art, which is a field I’m familiar with. The Tate in London describes the term as:

Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’. A basic memento mori painting would be a portrait with a skull but other symbols commonly found are hour glasses or clocks, extinguished or guttering candles, fruit, and flowers.

Closely related to the memento mori picture is the vanitas still life. In addition to the symbols of mortality these may include other symbols such as musical instruments, wine and books to remind us explicitly of the vanity (in the sense of worthlessness) of worldly pleasures and goods.

When I look at dried out seeds which I can share with others, I am struck by the momento-mori-ness of it all.

I am not able to garden vigorously as I did as a farmer with groves of Valencia oranges, fields of lavender and Matilija poppies, and rows of grapes for making wine. I work small now. Little and beautiful and rewarding.

I will plant for Renato’s celebration and for Faye’s birthday. I will snip lavender, put it in my new pottery vase, and place it on my bed stand. I will deliver the Globe Mallow seeds I harvested in Utah to my gardening friends disguised as a Drawing Salon. I will give Olga a cutting. One for Terry too. It’s a way of scattering seeds.

Gardening for me—maiden name Gardner—is a contemplative exercise, made even more so by the books and thoughts of Marc Hamer, gardener. I am a gardener. Rising. Blooming. Fading.

My main role these days is as both a home maker and a garden maker.




And yes, as I just found out by moving my fiddle leaf fig, backbreaking.

Advil please.

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One of your very best. All those vocations and the passion to share them. Lucky us! You make me want to rearrange shelves, move furniture and clean the flower beds. The fiddle leaf fig was very fortunate that day it found you.


I felt so happy after reading this! Your perspective, Marilyn, is rejuvenating and serene. And most of all, reassuring about our present and our future.


One of the several things about living in an apartment in someone else's backyard is my lack of my own garden or even outside space. My neighbors on either side who also live in the back yard of someone else's home, each have a deck they can furnish with potted plants, chairs and tables. I miss this. As you've written here, a garden is good for us in so many ways. I will come sit in yours anytime--even pull some weeds if you'd like.


You truly outdid yourself today!Gardner! Philosopher! Blogger! Writer!Interior Decorator ! Artist! Docent! Do your talents never end? I hope not! Next winter, a visit, some wine and conversation !


Jun 13, 2023

Homemaker, gardener, inspiration and a breath of fresh air. Thanks Marilyn.

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