The raggedy sunflowers are dried and withered in the front garden, and need to come out. But my goldfinches love them so, and sing so sweetly every morning when they visit, that I can't do it. They don't belong to me any more.
I used to cringe a little at their scraggly appearance when anyone would come to call, as if I needed to apologize, but now I merely shrug, as if to say, "I know, but what can we do? Those flowers were hardly meant for us, anyway."
It's a Monet garden--the whole front of the house, really--anyway. If you drive by, the lawn is green and squarish, and there are flowers under the windows. It's only if you stop and actually look that you see there is no lawn--the grass gave up some years ago. The four-o-clocks that dominate the front weren't really supposed to, and there are ruins of other flowers behind them. The clean white shutters and windows and door are cobwebbed, with bits of leaf hanging there like a spider's wall hangings. Our house is just like a Monet painting, where the closer you look the less there are lily pads and the more it's just blotches of paint.
This doesn't make Monet less of a master, rather, it makes him more of one. Instead of capturing the still beauty of a lily pond, detailing the precise position of every pistil and stamen, every pad and ripple, he does something more, relating the truth of the loveliness. When Monet paints your garden, what you get is more than a real picture of it; you get the power of it, the life of it, and that can't be examined. It must be felt.
In the modern world we put a high premium on our senses, on dissecting every impression and quantifying every deed, as if in so doing we can make sense of our world and ourselves. But this will never do. The best of the things in this world, wind, sun, beauty--love--cannot be totted up on a ledger. They cannot be known by touch or sight alone. They must be felt, and not by hands and fingers, either. They speak only to the soul.
Humans have so little ability to speak that language. Monet learned to, and Shakespeare. Angelou, sometimes. Beethoven heard it in his mind as his physical ears went deaf. It can be done, but when it is we hang it in a gallery or play it to silent halls, to hear tinnily what the masters heard in stereo surround.
Some might argue that it is our native tongue, but if so we have forgotten it, and only in conjunction with something or Someone else can we recapture a bit of its rhythm and lilt, hear as a faint echo the sound that perhaps we once heard as a shout.
And will again, one day.
What's real in this picture of my house isn't the flowers or the grass, or even the shutters my love painted by hand, but the life--the birds and the spiders, the flowers, the strewn toys and new-smudged sidewalk chalk. We will never be in Better Homes and Gardens, but if you come here and sit on the porch for an hour you may see what we see--it's a better home, and a better garden, than we could have designed on our own. There's a god's hand in it.
And I think He smiles at my goldfinches even more than I do.