What a perfect day to start blogging in the new year! All day it has been cloudy and overcast with little intermittent showers to keep things fresh and sparkly. Yep, down here it is a GOOD thing! The kind of weather in which you want to wrap up in a cozy blanket and snuggle down with a hot cuppa tea and an old-fashioned detective novel. Well, that's exactly what I did after the tasks for the day. Lord Wimsey kept me company with his irreverent and highly intellectual badinage in a venerable library edition that seems to be older than me!
First, here is a bit of color from me to you in this new year!
Looking back at the last year is somewhat inevitable for this first post. What peaks and vales I see! I think the theme of the garden fits my 2013 very well. As most of you know by now, the soil at Karthi is my special despair. I had fancied myself as a fine gardener when I was growing up because I could stick anything in the soil and make it grow, I begged and borrowed plant cuttings and seeds wherever I went and gave them all a good life in my garden. My topiary bushes and 12 varieties of hibiscus bushes were my special pride.
I thought I could bring it all back once I settled in Karthi. Nope! It's made me plumb the depths of my fitness to be called a gardener by insisting on letting only the weeds grow aplenty while the plants I cherish have a gargantuan struggle just to exist. And this summer, there was scarcely enough water for the humans that I couldn't water my plants as well as I would've wanted to. Several plants died off. But the ones that remain are strong and can survive anything. One of my good neighbors generously gave me several cuttings when the monsoons finally came and I am glad to say that they have ALL thrived although they are slow to grow. I got help twice this year to hold back the weeds, and now am managing a little each day on my own.
And then come these little miracles, you know....
like this self-seeded wilderness...
this plant that grew up EXACTLY where a variegated plant had breathed its last in the summer heat (oh yeah, I am a little out of practice with my topiary skills and the bushes take a loooong time to grow)...
And this little bit of lusciously bright color growing all on its own in my back yard when I had tried and failed to make some grow in the past three years!!!
As many of you know, 2013 came with very bad news about my Ma's health. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with metastases even in the lungs. In her already frail state with diabetes and its accompanying nerve debility, we wondered if it was even advisable to let her go on a regimen of chemos. One of her much younger and healthier cousins had just undergone a course of chemo for the same problem and had had severe reactions which we didn't want Ma to be subjected to. But she chose to go ahead and see what lay in front of her. I cannot but bow before her courage.
Ma went through a course of 6 chemos and then underwent surgery and coped with all of them much better than we expected her to. She has always been good about medications and although the vagaries of blood sugar levels have sometime caught her unawares, she absolutely strictly followed doctors' instructions for caring for herself through the ordeal. She also took aloe vera juice and various herbal decoctions to control her diabetes. Yes, she lost her hair and asked me to make bandanas for her which I made from my cotton duppattas.
Last month, Dad and Ma had their 40th wedding anniversary. My sis and I planned a surprise party for her with a few of our relatives from Kottayam coming over to join us. On the 22nd of December, we invited them to lunch at our home ostensibly to celebrate my niece's birthday in advance. And then we had the joy of surprising them with a whole crowd who went "Happy Anniversary!!!"
That's my Ma on the right, her hair grown back into a pretty bob and not wearing her pink bandana for once.
It was not only Ma's courage and good medical treatment that held us up in this ordeal. At first Ma wanted no one but immediate family know about her condition. But I went out on a limb and contacted her old colleagues from school who also happen to be my teachers. They responded with lots of love and care. They dropped in as if on a casual visit and Ma shared her diagnosis with them. They joined her in prayer and reassurances. I am absolutely positive that helped a lot in her recuperation as did the support of other relatives. We all owe them a huge debt for their support.
I too found help in a lot of friends - friends in the midst of their busy lives took time out to listen to my fearful rantings and outpourings and doubts and helped me in coming to terms with my pain. CANCER is a word that strikes fear into the bravest and I am but a poltroon. I am so grateful to all my friends for reaching out and being there for me. You know who you are!!!! Every little bit helped. Thank you all so much!!!
So it is with a full heart that I turn back to look at 2013. The searing summer took a lot out of us, but we have survived just like my garden, stronger for all of it and with lots of good surprises and a lot of support from our dear ones.
As for my gardening this year: Do you know that 2014 has been designated the Year of the Kitchen Garden? The State Horiticultural Mission has just delivered 25 grow-bags and seedlings and seeds for rooftop cultivation, along with a very helpful booklet on organic gardening. Stay tuned for serious vegetable gardening attempts at Karthi!!!