Listen to this article

My time here in China is short, and I’m looking forward to my return to Birdland. I’m glad to know I’ll come back here, or else I think I’d feel pretty sad. Today I decided to cross the tall footbridge in the rain. It is the long-cut to my office, but I wasn’t in a hurry, and I wanted to see whether the lotuses at the south end of the bridge were blooming. They weren’t, but the pads made a carpet on the water that looked almost solid, like I could skip across it if I ran fast enough. Some leaves rise, erect on stems above the surface. The sky was full grey, and the rain came down in sheets, and even puddled up in the permeable walkways they have here, soaking my shoes.

I passed the rose beds, now just fields of bristle and thorn, pruned as soon as they began dropping petals. But the flower islands on the lawn, mounded beds, each island with a shrub or two, surrounded by perennials that bloom in progression — peonies are replaced by a butterfly bush and iris. Annuals grow around the edges in monochromatic outlines, marigolds here, pansies there, impatiens across the way. One round island is only scarlet coleus surrounding a small conifer. It is glorious. I want to try one mounded bed like this when I get home, just a small one. I’ll let Michael choose the shrub. Spirea? Arborvitae? Or a little pointed fir?

Later, from my office, the rain is still pattering outside. It’s a no-mountain day, of course, the mountain in the southwest obscured by the downpour. My shoes are still wet, and I decide on a little break before I begin work. It is something out of Harry Potter: I peer through a small virtual window as Michael shows me around the yard at home. The peonies are in full bloom, and I hope they will hang on just a little while longer until I can see them. The first to bloom were my grandmother’s magenta blossoms, planted while she was still alive, about 35 years ago. Next came the delicate pink ones that I dug in Nancy’s yard outside Indianapolis at a long-ago garden trading party. Finally, the store-bought ones Michael put up near the house in various colors. These are a bit spindly yet, and the weight of the heads pulls them down. Though the focus goes in and out of the picture, I can almost smell the fragrance. The sun is going down in his world, while it has been up in my world for a few hours. His sky is a darkening blue. He points his phone to the yard where Ursula lounges, sniffing the evening air. Cullen runs up and sticks his snout into the picture, but doesn’t smell anything satisfying, and he’s on his way again.

Michael is sitting in the white Adirondack chair — I can see the arm of it, his feet stretch out in front. The cat comes and rubs herself on his legs. I can almost will myself to sit in the chair next to his, a large flower pot between us. (He has dragged the big pots back out into the yard by himself, but he told me he’d leave the spring planting for me when I get home.) In my mind, I place a glass of wine on the flat arm of each chair, or maybe just some cold tea. Let’s toast, my love, to all the ways we can stay together from the other side of the world. And to the family and friends here in China and at home that help us feel a part of a community. And most of all to the reunion that is coming soon.

Wander in Beauty; Return in Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays is working and living in China. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in The News-Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.

Trending Videos