But the garden was a mess, and this year I girded my ample loins and waded in. After a while I decided it wasn't so bad. Usually I can only fit in few stolen minutes before the morning walk/jog, but on Mother's Day I had hours to spend in the gorgeous sunshine while the kids played all around me, feeling the immense satisfaction that comes with yanking on a weed and pulling up a root that's longer than my intestinal tract.
As I crouched and hummed and yanked, I noticed one little bird hopping around me. She was small, grey'ish blue, and seemed more comfortable on the ground than in the air. She popped from the roses to the forsythia to the weeping cherry, coming close to me but never intruding on my space. I talked to her. She didn't talk back, but I hoped she could sense what I meant when I assured her I wasn't going to harm her.
Then, as I stretched to remove a dandelion from near the rosebush, something caught my eye. Something pink. Something MOVING.
My first thought was that it was a mouse. Specifically, a Wild Killer Mouse, a cousin of the rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, waiting for the perfect moment to leap up and devour my face. (Sometimes, having a writer's imagination sucks.) As I prepared to run for my life I got a better look. And what did I spy with my terror-filled eye?
All of a sudden, that hopping bird made sense to me.
I backed away and worked extra carefully for the rest of the day. The mama wouldn't return to the nest when we were too close so I moved my work to another end of the garden (trust me, there were plenty of weeds in need of dispatching) and watched from afar. And thought of how I'd been so busy bracing for something unpleasant that I almost missed the amazing gift of this nest, these birds, this glimpse into a new world.
And then I thought - you know, our stories are often like that. Our characters are muddling along, living their lives and usually doing a fair job of it - or at least that's what they tell themselves - until something happens to throw their world upside down. Things are a mess. They anticipate all kinds of complication and trouble and weeds. (Also, possibly grizzlies.)
But while they're fixating on the trouble that's befallen them, something else happens. Love happens. They aren't expecting it, aren't looking for it, and sometimes it's the last thing they want. But there it is. New and fluffy and almost silent, but oh so real. Oh so precious. Oh so alive.
There are people who think that all romance novels are about nothing more than a girl catching a guy, or any variation thereof. Those folks are wrong. Romance novels are about people trying to uproot the weeds that have taken over their life, only to stumble into love in the process. The love isn't the goal. It's the bonus, the reward for the struggles, the precious discovery they never expected but which ends up being the new focus of their lives.
Just like that tiny nest and those even-tinier babies are now the focus of my messy but immeasurably amazing garden.
Now tell me, readers - how do YOU feel about gardening? How about surprises?