spring renewal

by Sharon Santoni

The following short story is 100% fiction, but it’s a theme I’ve been thinking about a lot after having dinner with a girlfriend whose marriage has hit a rocky patch.   There is no indiscretion and she’s seen the piece before I showed it to you …. As always when I publish fiction, I beg your indulgence.    I don’t pretend to be a great writer, I simply love to tell a tale.

Louise poured some more coffee into her favourite mug, slipped on a pair of old shoes, walked out the kitchen door and onto the lawn.  It was  still wet with the morning dew.
She had spent the week in the spring garden. Taking stock to begin with:  remembering what used to be, dreaming of what could be again, and making resolutions.  Then she had picked up garden tools and started work.
Tom was away for several weeks.  He didn’t often travel that long and she didn’t know why this trip required so much time.  She had meant to ask, but somehow the question was never posed.
The children telephoned now and again: “Hi Mum, what are you up to today?”.  They never left her time to  answer, content to babble on about their busy lives, and she content to listen, and painfully aware that in any case she’d have nothing much to say in answer to their question.
She was long past that extremely-busy stage in her life.  There were no longer hungry mouths to feed at home, no homework to oversee, no school activities to run (thank goodness),  less entertaining of friends.  She had to admit that the less she had to do, the less she did.  Instead of making full use of this new found freedom, she had let herself slip into a rut, maybe even a deep trough.
So this morning, over breakfast she had moved from taking stock of her garden to taking stock of her life and, most importantly, her marriage. In fact it seemed that her garden and her marriage were similar in far too many ways.
As a bright young couple she and Tom were unstoppable.  Endlessly busy, and productive and floating high on a cloud of achievement.  They had known an exciting planting season when seeds of hope had been liberally strewn and  tender shoots admired.   Their garden was cherished and grew well to form a strong and admirable surround to their beautiful home; interesting jobs; lively circle of friends and inevitably glittering social life.
With the groundwork well established they  became more ambitious,  more confident and two young trees entered the garden.  As the years passed the young trees grew strong, did well  and gave Louise and Tom much joy and satisfaction.
Then had come the drought years.  They seemed endless.  The former excitement and innovation gave way to an exhausting routine.  There was never enough water, the garden was untidy and even the young trees showed signs of strain.
The grass faded from lush green to beige.  The garden became dull, their busy lives carefully moving around the edges without ever taking the time to stop and take a good look at what was happening.
Tom started travelling more frequently, the children flew the nest to start their studies and then to commence their own lives, and quite suddenly, in what seemed like a blink of the eye, Louise found herself very often alone.
How had this happened, why hadn’t she seen it coming?  She toyed with the idea of talking about it to Tom, but although they got on well enough together,  they communicated only superficially about practical details of everyday life, never in depth ……. She knew that the garden needed attention, she knew exactly what had to be done, it was simply a question of deciding if she had the will to take on the task.
At the start of the week she had toyed with the idea of calling in a landscape gardener: hoping for a magic wand that could bring the garden back to life.   She saw a small ad and dialled the number … trying to sound bright and nonchalant on the phone:
“Oh you know, it’s a mature garden now…runs itself really.. I’m not even sure you’d find that much to do…”
There was a pause, the gardener’s question came, as incisive as a scalpel… “Are you happy with the way it is now?”
She was taken aback  “Oh well, it’s OK I suppose … a bit boring .. but nobody seems very interested these days, not like when we were younger.  It was gorgeous then you know, wonderful, all our friends loved being here…”
“Well if it used to be that good then you must have given it a lot of love and attention”
She said nothing so  he continued  “If you want your garden to be interesting again, I can give you some ideas, but it’ll be all the stuff you know already.  My ideas won’t have any effect unless you’re prepared to put in the hard work…do you think you’re ready to dig and prune and weed and feed again?”

They talked a little longer and before Louise put the phone down she muttered “Thank you, I’ll think about it” .. and so she had. Non-stop ever since.

She took paper and pen and wrote down what she wanted: – surprisingly difficult to define.   And even more difficult to contain to just the garden.  Her wish list for the green areas began to grow and spread to other parts of her life.  A wish list for herself, her family and then her marriage.
She longed for shoots of hope; for signs of new life.  And curiously the more she thought about all she longed for,  the more she realised how much she already had.  The structure of that beautiful garden was still there, nothing major had changed, with the right attention she could revive it.
By midweek her back ached, she had blisters on her hands and her shoulders had turned pink in the bright spring sunshine,  but the garden was already looking better.

By the end of the week she found the telephone number for Tom’s hotel.  “Everything all right ?”, his voice was surprised and concerned “you don’t normally call me like this”

“Oh yes Tom, everything’s fine, I was just thinking about you, wondered how you were and when… when are you coming home”

“I’ll be back next week, but you know that … are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”

“Tom, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week, and working in the garden too.  You’ll see a big difference.  It’s lovely to feel that spring is on its way.  I have great plans for the garden, I was hoping you’d be pleased, that … that we could maybe work on it together.  Remember?  Like we used to”

Tom said nothing for a while, then  in a quieter voice simply said “I’d like that, I’d like it a great deal”
“Thank you Tom darling”, she replied ” I was so hoping you’d say that….  Hurry home, there is so much to do.  You’ll see, this spring,  it will be good again”

38 comments

Donna Knight April 26, 2017 - 12:39 pm

Sharon, Agay, thank you for your thought provoking & inspiring words! I think, as we enter into another phase of married life, we come to that “fork in the road, where we need to take stock in ourselves in order to choose which path to take. Your lovely story will help many of us to slow down to think before we make the choice.

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Donna Knight April 26, 2017 - 12:43 pm

Again = Agay in spell-check

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Brenda April 26, 2017 - 12:46 pm

Love your blogs. The flowers are so soothing to the soul. I would recommend your going to You Tube and find Tim Spell singing “When God unfolds the rose”. It is beautiful.

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Jeanie April 26, 2017 - 1:13 pm

Such a sweet story with so many truths. Thank you, Sharon!

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holly April 26, 2017 - 1:34 pm

A lovely story that strikes at the heart of my place in life. I am in a trough and uncertain if my husband will care to garden at all. his choice. I will continue to tend it alone if need. xx-hb

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sophie kauffmann April 26, 2017 - 1:36 pm

Bonjour, j’aime énormément votre blog si élégant. J’aimerai vous poser une question. Savez vous s’il est possible de trouver en France ces meubles de salle de bains vanity tellement jolis dans les salle de bains américaines ? Un grand merci d’avance.
Et bravo pour votre merveilleux sens esthétique, c’est un enchantement de découvrir vos photos et articles.
Bien à vous. Sophie

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MaryD April 26, 2017 - 2:11 pm

Lovely Story as always Sharon. Thank you,
now I must go tend the garden.

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Tracey McCauley April 26, 2017 - 2:40 pm

I loved your beautiful story! You have such a gift, so please keep writing and sharing!!!

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Anne HH April 26, 2017 - 3:00 pm

Absolutely charming!! Thank you for this gift! Can you imagine how many of us, your readers, are at just this age? I read this looking out over the ocean with my husband of 37 years just feet away. We are reveling in this time after our children have launched but it has taken conscious effort on both our parts to rediscover and reinvent our long marriage. Do you ever read the “Modern Love” column in the Sunday New York Times? I loved last Sunday’s column and shared it with my husband and children. The author said she has been married three times but all to the same man–one was pre-children, one during child-raising, and now the one after the children were off inventing their own lives. I loved that way of thinking about this subject. Thank you, again, for this story and I believe you to be a VERY GIFTED writer and story-teller.

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Susan April 27, 2017 - 9:14 pm

Sharon loved this beautiful allegory – keep writing! Anne – yes to that reference about being married three times to the same man! So true – we are on our 35th year.
I think sometimes we get complacent in our marriages and it takes continued effort to keep the connection alive!
xo Susan

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Linda Mahkovec April 26, 2017 - 3:17 pm

Like everything you do, this story is beautiful, with deeper truths tugging at the heart, just beneath the lovely surface.

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Blanca Martinez April 26, 2017 - 3:19 pm

Hi Sharon,
Amazing story, I was able to capture every small detail about it, very well said. A life translated in to a garden.
You are a writer!
Thank you for a story that invited me into reflection.

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Debbra L Weber April 26, 2017 - 3:53 pm

Wow! Thank you for sharing your story. It was well received and needed by me as I’m sure many others. A new spring has now sprung. Thank you so much!

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Beth April 26, 2017 - 3:55 pm

I absolutely love your stories, and this one was a good reminder to work on what we have, so please keep them coming. To see one in my inbox is a lovely start to my day. Thanks.

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Diane April 26, 2017 - 4:11 pm

Dear Sharon, what a beautiful story! Who knew!…comparing the garden to our lives! You are truly a gifted writer. This story brought tears to my eyes…I hope there’s more to the story. My husband travels too and we are in the Twilight of our lives and the garden is a nice place to nurture when he and the kids no longer need my nurturing. Thank you for your lovely insight. Bless you. I’m sure you also helped so many others. Be well….

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Alina Tarmu April 26, 2017 - 5:21 pm

What a lovely short story. I can’t wait for the collection gathered in a small hard-cover, illustrated by your gorgeous photos. 😉

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Trisha April 26, 2017 - 5:25 pm

Love your story Sharon. You do have a gift. I think this resonates with anyone in a marriage, and even those who are not. Life constantly gives us “gardens” to tend to whether it is love, friendship, or hardships. We are the masters of our gardens, and I think we all sometimes forget that, myself included, especially when it becomes overrun with “weeds.” Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer April 26, 2017 - 6:09 pm

Loved reading your story. I really like you analogy of tending a garden and a marriage. It’s definitely thought provoking.

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Colleen Taylor April 26, 2017 - 6:19 pm

I can see another beautiful story unfolding Sharon. Your writing is enchantment to my soul. X

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Marian from England April 26, 2017 - 7:05 pm

A very true sentiment in your story. Marriage needs constant nurturing, but it is usually only once the hamster wheel has slowed down a little, later in life, that we can turn our full focus to it again. My husband and I took a leap of faith in my 60th year and moved to a country village into an old beamed cottage, something we’d always wanted to do. It was scary and exciting at the same time. Since then, we have created a beautiful home and completely ‘undid’ the garden and re designed it to suit our needs and lifestyle. We have almost finished and we can’t wait to be able to just enjoy the fruits of our labours with our friends and family. But there is a part of me that misses the creativity and planning, so, I shall find new ways to fill that need and with my husband retiring in a few months, we plan to make the most of the freedom; time to walk in the countryside, visit new places and enjoy our grandchildren together. It’s been a hard slog over the last 6 years, but worth it. A new phase beckons……

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Mimi Brooks April 26, 2017 - 8:17 pm

awww i just love this one. sweet and bittersweet. i am choosing a different path in my garden… but lovely, nonetheless. you are a good writer, sharon! xo

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Vicki April 26, 2017 - 8:23 pm

LOVE YOUR STORIES! Thank you for every word.
The flow and content always excite and make me want to read your lines forever.

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Leslie in Little rock April 26, 2017 - 8:49 pm

“Yay!” I said, when I saw your story in my inbox. I too am entering a new and hopefully happier phase. I lost my father in November, my brother 5 weeks ago and now my mom and I are looking for a house together. (My idea, because they both lived with her in a tri-level house!) My husband is an invalid so this would make my life SO much simpler. The thing that excites me the most is starting a garden! I’ve already been dreaming, which makes me more hopeful for the future. I am digging up the plants I want to take with me as we start this new phase-a breath of fresh air for two people who desperately need it. It’s gonna be work… but worth it! Love your books, posts and stories for this Francophile. (-; Leslie B

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Emm April 26, 2017 - 9:05 pm

What a lovely parable, Sharon, and so appropriate for now in so many ways–the time of year, people’s lives, the state of the world.
Thank you for the inspiration.

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Marie Batson April 26, 2017 - 9:52 pm

Sharon, I loved your story and comparisons with relationships and our gardens. I am an avid gardener but lost my best friend, lover, and gardening helper 14 years ago after 40 years of blissful marriage. I continue to garden as it is such therapy for me with it’s many beautiful blessings and mysteries. How true that it takes work to nurture and groom it but how close we are to nature and God when we are weeding on our knees, listening to the birds and bees, soaking in the sunshine or breathing in the fragrant air. I observe many young couples who are missing out when ignoring such times to spend together allowing the absorption of natural healing to counteract
all the stress of today’s world. Thank you for reminding me!

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Heather April 26, 2017 - 9:52 pm

This is beautiful…Thank you for sharing!

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Rob April 26, 2017 - 10:18 pm

Your Spring photos are most welcome as we are autumnal in New Zealand, feeling the first intimations of wimter. It is good to have hope for the future 🙂
My husband hates gardening, & I have been housebound for many years : it was a shock to see just how neglected our garden is looking at present. Plenty of food for thought in your story…but I’m so glad it ended on an encouraging note!

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Dottie Monta April 27, 2017 - 3:22 am

Masterful! Thank you, Sharon!

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Sue April 27, 2017 - 3:40 am

Thanks for sharing your lovely story. It really made me think about my relationship with my husband. Our children are just starting to move out and get married and it reminded me to continue to work and grow each day.

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Sue Malizia April 27, 2017 - 7:39 am

Sharon,
Such a wonderful, thought provoking story…loved it!

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Hazel Lavelle April 27, 2017 - 12:41 pm

Dear Sharon
Iam sat here in tears , after reading all the replays people have sent you .
You touched the hearts of many with your story
And me greatly ! My husband and I went our separate ways after fortyfive years of marriage
He to worked away in the Middle East and Asia . There he met some one else . And his parting words were , iam setting you free to , to enjoy your life , to paint , to sit in a field full of poppies
And live life to the full .

Thanks Sharon love Hazel X. Manchester uk

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Dianne April 27, 2017 - 1:26 pm

|Thankyou Sharon please dont apologise (only do that if you DONT write) a story told has many shoots going everywhere and planting seeds to all readers xxx

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Marilyn April 27, 2017 - 11:29 pm

Very thought provoking. I read the comments with interest. So many of us seem to be at a crossroads or junction in our lives. I need to sit and think.

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MARLA April 28, 2017 - 1:29 am

Oh Sharon! What a delightful story and precious metaphor! Thank you….We can all use some renewal, non? Thank you.

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Sylvia Faye April 30, 2017 - 8:04 am

I left a comment and lost it so will just simple say I always appreciate your stories and pictures that relate to the theme of the story.

Simple pleasures bring great joy and so do your stories.

I requested another story and was thrilled that you wrote one and a subject and pictures I love.

Also love your homebody posts; they are the best.

Gratefully,
Sylvia Faye

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Pamela R LePage May 1, 2017 - 7:21 am

The photos of the gardens are great… The story might have been fiction , but there was a lot true to life in it. Great story….

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Jan Bell May 6, 2017 - 5:40 pm

Dear Sharon, I was so excited when I saw you had a story that I saved it until I had time to enjoy reading it. I fully enjoyed every word, picture, and analogy within. As one reader stated, don’t apologize for your writing, apologize for not writing.
Just lovely and thought provoking! Jan

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Solar May 24, 2024 - 2:37 pm

Thanks for sharing your knowledge in this informative blog. Solar

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