BY JONN KARSSEBOOM
We were huddled at the outdoor coffee bar on an early spring morning shivering while it rained and rained. The three of us were grateful it wasn’t the winter cold but because spring for gardeners tends to bring with it rising expectations of sun and warmth, we looked to the sky for any indication of our expectations.
“I see a clearing in the clouds about ten minutes away.” Explained T-Rex. (Trevor’s Garden Corner nickname that seemed to stick.)
I drafted the gift certificate of $25 and then penned a quick note to what we thought would be to the “intrepid explorer”. This mysterious person might, by a slim worldly margin, find it and return it to us. In my excitement I forgot to put a date on it.
I licked the envelope and then dropped the gift certificate/letter along with a lucky penny (for ballast) into a Ziploc freezer bag. A clumsy slice with my pruner into the bag’s upper corner and I tied a quick knot through the hole with the dainty, brightly colored ribbon. Our mission was set.
“This time, let’s avoid the trees and let it loose in the upper parking lot.” directed Sting as he eyed the previous failed mission tangled high up in a nearby Douglas fir.
The gift certificate, the lucky penny and the Ziploc bag were being sent away, for no particular reason, tied to a Mylar balloon filled with helium. The balloon was just the right shade of bright yellow, at least we thought, with a large, smiling “Have a Nice Day” emoji.
I’ve noticed when talking with fellow gardeners there comes a point in our gardening life that some unusual plant befuddles us with mystery. Is it alive or dead? Will it make it? What might it need? What shall I do with it?
During those trying, questioning times we have a common last resort response: Dig it up, plant it in the ground somewhere else and just see what may happen. I think it’s that absolute last point of no return that makes gardening the most rewarding. It’s a do or die, live and let live, against-all-odds kind of feeling. As gardeners we hope all will go well. Often times we’re wondrously surprised that it does.
And yet, sometimes it doesn’t. Gardening is also a full story of heartbreak and loss and disappointment and frustration and lost potential and through that hardship and work we learn: “oh well, tomorrow comes another chance.”
The balloon captivated us as we watched it gain altitude. It quickly cleared the trees and through the short sunshine it sparkled and then the wind carried it away. We wondered how far it would go and of course, we took bets. Wind speed, altitude, temperature, weather, googled stories of balloons flying thousands of miles kept our conversation going throughout the day.
A few weeks later picking up my daughter Abbi from Tualatin High she pointed out that she could see the first pink in the cherry trees that surrounded the school. (In my adult rush I hadn’t stopped to notice.)
“Do they start out pink and change color along the way?” she wondered out loud.
It made me think of the importance of cherry blossoms here and in faraway places like Japan. The blossoms represent both the vulnerability and the beauty of life. Because they appear astonishingly enmasse but just as quickly disappear they help us to remember that life can be amazingly beautiful and yet can also be sadly short.
I have yet to hear from the intrepid explorer that presumably has found the now deflated balloon and zip locked note. It’s possible (and likely) I’ll never hear how far it travelled. Meanwhile, with that same spirit of fleeting immortality I’ll keep planting in the garden. It never fails to surprise me.
Jonn Karsseboom loves the science behind, under and around and in the garden. You may email him for no reason at all too: firstname.lastname@example.org.