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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grace Personified in Two Women: Capucine and Tamaria

The magical yard of Capucine and Tamara
Magic happens. Grace happens. Sometimes you stumble on it. My friend, Kathy and I started this social good movement that we named Front Porch Nation back in July. Ever since I have been traveling about looking for front porches and folks on their front porches that I could talk to, photograph and write about as inspiration for all the rest of us. It has been a life-changing experience in so many ways. Today, I got a call from Hubbs. In his excitement to ride his motorcycle before "The Big Freeze", he left his shoes at home. Clomping around work in his motorcycle boots could be done, but he'd look a little odd: they are big, like space boots! So, Bear and I headed down to Fondren to drop off a more reasonable pair. Afterwards, we tootled around looking down not-yet-traveled streets for porches and people out on them. We saw some fun ones and some people, too. Then I turned down a random street and came across front porch after front porch that just sang out in welcome. And, because it was a balmy day, there was a grandma raking leaves out front and then a porch with a massive hand-carved bench and the beginnings of a fountain or raised bed, and then I saw them, two woman in front, one on her porch, still in her colorful velvet robe and a sweetly ruffled cap to protect her hair, the other seated on a vintage cheery bench the color of Meyer lemons, breaking cut branches of vitex into a large black garbage bag. The fragrance filled the yard like incense.

We struck up a conversation and for the next 20 minutes we talked flowers and porches and life. The yard was a contrast in effusive color and order, mums, lantana, roses, mandevilla, coleus, zinnias, vitex all planted in seemingly random beds divided by a straight sidewalk whose entrance was bordered by stately pampas grass and topiary in large urns. I looked at the two women who were a contrast as well, one like a bird, singing and bubbling with her enthusiam to show me all the treasured plants both front, back and through the colorful, sparkling, small home: bright walls of turquoise and keylime. The other woman like a deep ocean, steady and intense. It was breathtaking-- the amount of creative energy exploding out of every space. Capucine, in soft grey sweats and long dark braids twisted gently behind her, talked about her plants and the people in nearby towns whose beds she planted and tended. She asked who tended my yard, and I made a laughing comment about how that was supposed to be Hubbs job, but he wasn't all that into it. She looked at me, with no judgement, and calmly said, "You have a porch, you can tend your yard."

And I saw in these women a truth that I needed to embrace as my own: neglect is not an option. All around me, reflected in every inch of this 1940s bungalow, I saw that to be true. It was not perfection. Not at all. It was joyous chaos, lovingly tended. It was two creative sparks channeling their energies where they best suited them: one via windchimes and tulle and things that sparkled, the other with her hands in the dirt or on a plant. Even the random coleus that was growing as a result of a bird dropping was lovingly tended, as the true gift from Nature that it was. I, on the other hand, have neglected my yard. It is bedraggled and looks unloved. It overwhelms me with its size and the sheer amount of constant work that seemingly has to be done in it. Once, another time ago, in a smaller home and a much smaller yard, I had filled such a space with lushness and abandon: lovely flowers that I cared for and took great pleasure from. I pondered Capucine's words and the calm and steady way she worked during our visit and thought of the decluttering work I have done on the inside of my home, where 15 minutes a few times a day had turned everything around. It could work outside as well. I just had to start. And it didn't have to be perfect. What a relief!

So, after lunch, I headed outdoors and began. It became a race against the trashmen who were soon to arrive. I started with my front porch and worked my way around. Oh gross, there is a dead duck! Well, I certainly don't want to leave him lying about, for it will only get worse. I debated waiting till Hubbs got home and letting him deal with it. Why? Because he's male, he gets all the crap jobs? No wonder he doesn't jump for joy to work in the yard. Who could blame him with that kind of incentive? 15 minutes turned into a few hours, but it was all good. You can't really tell that I did anything, if you were to drive by and not known what it looked like before, but I can tell. The trashmen could tell. I offered them cold sodas and thanked them as they hauled the debris away. Tomorrow, I would do a little more. Even if just a couple of 15 minute segments. I could do that every day. That wasn't overwhelming.

Those women will more than likely forget my visit with them, but I will not, for they changed my life for the better. They welcomed me into their yard and onto their front porch and spoke to me friend to friend. And they lived a life that exemplified a truth: neglect is not an option.
Yours ever,
~e