Growing up, our family always kept a flower garden. It was filled with roses, dahlias, and peonies. The Peace rose was my dad’s favorite. He was a WWII veteran, and that rose was named for the celebration of the war ending.
He often traveled for his job and asked me to be the keeper of the garden. I mixed the soil with peat and fertilizer and sprayed the insecticides. I sang to those plants; a chorus of colors sang back. Dusk stepped up the deep-root water soaking. Birds danced in the mist. This garden gave me inspiration for my studies in art and design.
We lived in central Michigan at the edge of the hardwood tree line made by glacier—glaciers over a thousand feet in height. It is a vast land of smooth stones and forest that stops abruptly and then turns to flat, fertile, sandy lands, where sugar beets and potatoes are grown and processed. Evening breezes send the perfume of the potatoes, the beets, and the sulphur of the oil wells. There is a calming rhythm of a well’s pumping, “haw hee…pap pap pap.” A small sludge pond shimmers with a film of blue-green iridescence. Raccoon tracks a hint of last night’s activities.
Come spring, a few abandoned apple trees open their soft, white blossoms. The summer brings sunflowers, purple thistles, and cattails, and intricate colored geometries to our beloved landscape. These forms were the models for my botanical sketch studies. Memories became companions.
This evening I will be tending my garden. Dusk blends its forms and colors. From the corner of my eye, I might catch a flutter and hear the barred owl high in the pines, “whoo choo ha whoo.” The songbirds and purple martins will flit about in the spray of the sprinklers. Later the bats will take over the landscape. Spiders will reweave their webs in the glistening wet grass. My dad, rest in peace, will have a presence there.
By John Haas, a HomeWorks Tri-County Cooperative member
John is a retired architect and designed prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan for 12 years in the war. He enjoys painting watercolors and cooking with his wife, Mary Louise.