Lorraine V. Murray

When I walk into the side garden and spot my three rose bushes, their branches tangling merrily in the wind, I’m reminded of how precious everyday faith is. Especially faith in our own capabilities. Faith in renewal. And faith in doubtful outcomes. When my husband and I first moved into our home 16 years ago, I yearned to raise roses, but I kept facing mental roadblocks. In my estimation, roses were magical beings that only cleverer women could producewomen who wore crisp cotton sundresses and were surrounded by little gaggles of giggling children. Women who were, first and foremost, nurturers.

Childless, I’ve often suspected that the nurturing gene somehow passed me by. I’ve never been adept at many of the homey undertakings other women take for granted, like selecting just the right wallpaper for the kitchen, putting dust ruffles on the beds and knowing the exact angle you hold a baby in order to produce a hearty burp.

As the years passed, my yearning to grow roses didn’t diminish. But every time I was tempted, I reminded myself sternly that my thumb lacked even the slightest smudge of green. Besides, our side garden is too shaded, and roses need sunlight to thrive. I tried to content myself with admiring the roses other women grew. A single white rose bush growing in my neighbor’s yard particularly captured my fancy. Every time I walked by, I stopped to marvel at the miniature blooms, which were as delicate as sea shells.

One day in a local nursery, I spotted two young rose bushes sitting side by side in containers. They were tagged Joseph’s Coat and Don Juan. As I gazed longingly at the pictures on the tags, I envisioned myself in my garden, cutting a cluster of roses in the spring. Then I recounted all the reasons why the poor little bushes were likely to languish and die under my care. Maybe tulips would be better, I thought. Somehow, they seemed hardier and less temperamental.

I decided to take a chance. I bought the two bushes and loaded them into my car.

A few days later, I was running a high fever and my body was covered with bumps. After the doctor confirmed my suspicion that I’d come down with chicken pox, I was housebound for a few weeks. As I was regaining my strength, I’d sit on the front porch swing and admire the rose bushes still in their containers a few yards away. Somehow just looking at them gave me hope. Despite the fact that I shuddered when I peered into the mirror, I told myself that maybe I’d get well, maybe I’d plant those bushesand maybe they’d produce some stunning roses.

That was five years ago. I did get well, I planted the bushes, and much to my surprise, they have been thriving ever since. Despite the meager amount of sun in the garden, each spring the Joseph’s Coat bursts into a crazy quilt of red, orange and yellow flowers, while the Don Juan sports a cloak of velvety red blooms. For most of spring and summer, the vase on my dining room table never lacks a long-stemmed occupant.

A year ago, the two rose bushes got a companion. One day, my husband and I noticed that the neighbors with the white rose bush were revamping their front lawn. A closer inspection revealed they had uprooted the little bush I’d admired so much and thrown it in the trash heap.

Ever so carefully, we retrieved the bedraggled bush, carried it home and planted it near the other roses. After a few days of dutiful watering, I was rewarded by the sight of tiny tendrils of green emerging on its branches. That spring, a cluster of tiny white roses added their notes to the symphony of color in the side garden.

Still, I don’t congratulate myself that somehow I’ve managed to do everything right. Friends often exclaim over the jewel-like blooms. They wonder if I spray the roses for pests or blend special nutrients into the soil. I hate to disappoint my friends. I’d love to be like one of the women who grace the pages of the gardening magazines. They seem to have a treasure chest of secrets to share.

The truth is, the roses seem to be doing fine without me. Of course, I water them during dry spells and prune them in the winter, but that’s about it. They seem to have minds of their own. Slowly they are taking over the side garden, sinking deeper roots and sending tendrils that creep like curious fingers up the side of the house.

Even in winter, when they are leaflessbrown and rather forlorn lookingthe trio of rose bushes reminds me of the little everyday miracles in my life.

People, I’ve learned, do survive terrible ailments like chicken pox. Women like me who are hopeless at tending children can somehow keep roses alive. And even a rose bush that was thrown away can make a comeback.

What wonders we can witness if we just have faith.

Lorraine V. Murray is a writer who lives in Decatur, Ga. Her first book will be published by Resurrection Press in Spring, 2002.

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