It was too dark when I got home to see if anything had come up in the garden while I was gone, but I was out there at 7:00 this morning. Victory! The basil is up in its pot and the marigolds in theirs, the zinnias are up in the back garden, the echinacea has set buds and all the tulips are blooming at once. The rain pours through the gutter outside my office window, and it is a lovely sound. Everyone in the garden is busy and happy.
In St. Louis, my hosts and I ate breakfast on their back porch both mornings I was there. In the rain. No matter -- it is covered, and there's plenty to see in the garden, rain or shine. Most of their meals are eaten on that porch, just as soon as it's warm enough. They don't have a downspout for the rain -- they have a funny chain of interlinking steel rings, and the raindrops wander down the chain in sequences that fascinated me for minutes on end.
Just at the time in life when many people downsize out of large homes into condominiums, they decided to renovate a hundred-year-old three-story house in the city. Its ceilings are taller than ours, which is saying something, and its woodwork is a preservationist's dream of heaven. Workmen were already coming and going as we ate our breakfast: some of the gingerbread on the exterior has come to the end of its life, and they have to fabricate replacements for something nobody makes any more.
A story: the previous owner fell in love with the house, as did the current ones. When he was looking at it with an eye to buying and restoring
it, he spoke to it. "I love you, house!" he said, and all the upstairs doors flew open at once. A draft, I guess, caused by the front door being open and the wind just right. But maybe not -- "I love you, too. Buy me and make me beautiful again, It's been so long since I was beautiful." And he made a beginning. They continue: with these old girls, the work just never stops.
Actually, the work just never stops anywhere. There's never a time when things are settled and you have nothing left to do. As long as I've been alive, there had never been a moment in which everything was up to date and handled, when something didn't loom.
I realized some years ago that such a moment would never come. We're never finished. That's what life is: a series of challenges. You only stop meeting challenges when you're dead.