With the heat rising and the rain a distant memory, I’ve been spending my non-work, non-parent hours thinking about understatement . . . subtlety. The subject came up the other day when I was taking one of my long weekend walks. There’s a house in a neighborhood near mine that has the most marvelous garden. Whenever I can, I try to walk by to see what’s blooming. The place is magical, glorious, especially in our drought-ridden, high-desert city.
Last Sunday when I passed the house, I finally spied an elderly gentleman bent over a rose bush and inspecting a perfect lavender bud.
“Excuse me, Sir,” I said, not wanting to startle him.
When he stood, the man towered over me. A white shirt and khaki pants hung loosely over loose, wrinkled flesh. He used a crinkled handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his flushed, sun-spotted face and looked at me with filmy blue-green eyes that still managed to show curiosity.
“I just wanted to thank you,” I said, suddenly self-conscious. “This garden is a work of art.”
“It’s her garden,” he said, pointing to a wrought iron sign at the top of a trellis covered in climbing pink and yellow roses. The sign had the words Peggy’s Garden on it. “She died two years ago.” The man stared at the sign for a moment before speaking again, his voice soft. “She loved this place.”
His attention returned to our conversation. “That’s why I promised myself I’d take care of it for as long as I’m able.”
The way he said that last sentence really got to me. The man was already old, tired. He seemed so sad, as if the pain of his wife’s death hadn’t diminished from the day she’d left him. The fact that he had decided to dedicate himself to a garden that had brought her so much joy, as a quiet tribute, moved me tremendously.
Often acts of love — or of other strong emotions — are portrayed in literature, movies and television with garish brushstrokes. They demand attention!!!
In the case of the gentleman I met, I didn’t get the sense that his was a loud action at all. He goes into that garden daily to honor his wife and to be near her, near to something that made her happy. And in doing so, he finds meaning and satisfaction.
So my question today is:
Can you share with us an example of a whispered action — real or fictional — that moves you more than a shouted one ever could?
I’m looking forward to a fascinating conversation.