The Shadow of Family Trees

I live in a small town where people tend to stay when they’re grown, or if they leave, they come back to retire. I thought there would be a problem, since the residents of many such towns tend to stick together and not welcome newcomers, but not here. Everyone (well, almost everyone — there’s always that one person who aggravates) has been kind and welcoming. Now that I’m sorting out the family trees just a bit, this welcome amazes me even more. It seems as if almost everyone is related within one or two degrees of separation.

For example, I met the grandson of the woman I am working for (with?) and today, talking to another friend, she mentioned her grandson of the same name. Turns out, it’s not a coincidence of names — the same boy is the grandson of both women. In another case, one friend’s grandfather is another friend’s uncle. I can’t even wrap my mind around that!

I may never get all these relationships straight, but it doesn’t matter. The shadow of their family trees doesn’t fall on me like it does with those who grew up here. I can take people are they are, rather than what limb they came from.

Another thing I discovered (that has nothing to do with family trees, though it does have to do with plants) is that at one time, 92% of all zinnia seeds came from this area. It must have been beautiful, driving down a highway lined with jewel-toned fields, all the colors mixed together in a riot of joy. It certainly explains why zinnias seem to like me — it’s not me so much as that they feel at home.

It would be nice to think that the zinnias I found growing in my yard were descendants of the original flowers, but I doubt it. Although I was surprised to find the zinnias, it’s only because I forgot that I planted them. Well, in a way, I planted them. I had some old seeds that I threw out into the yard instead of tossing the unopened packet in the trash. Most of the seeds did nothing, but the zinnias decided to grow. So nice of them!

I’ve never really had any special feeling for zinnias, but after this summer, seeing the cheerful blooms and knowing they belong in the area, might even belong to the same family tree as those original zinnia fields, I’m considering planting a yardful of them next year.

One of my new friends (one of the grandmothers) told me about a seed store in a town up the road a piece. They might even have seeds grown around here, which would be nice.

What is also nice is being able to plan for next year, knowing that unless something traumatic happens, I’ll still be here in this small town. And probably still trying to sort out the shadows of all those family trees.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Dilemmas

The women I work with and for invited me on a drive this afternoon. We went out in the country and saw where the one woman grew up, where their relatives once lived, where various other people I don’t know once lived, as well as a lesson on the water dynamics of the area. Some of the big farmers and ranchers saved their water rights, but people with smaller acreages and adult children who didn’t want to farm, sold their rights to be able to stay in their houses.

I understand this was a tough decision for people, but not being a rancher/farmer, all I can do is shake my head and wonder if they’d ever seen a western movie. It seems that a huge number of westerns revolve around water rights, generally, with the evil banker trying to corner the valuable water market, and so the idea that anyone would sell their water rights seems self-defeating. Money now, of course, but not later when/if it comes time to sell the property. Still, not my dilemma.

My dilemma is a different one, though still in the financial realm. A relative had some very bad luck, and my first inclination was to send her a check to help her out. Then I got to thinking about it, and realized that I accepted a job to help my own financial situation, and if I sent her anything, in essence, then, I would be working for her benefit, not mine, that all the money for the work I will be doing for the next several months would be going in her pocket.

Oddly, the tarot card I picked today — The King of Pentacles — reminded me to stay in control of my energies and resources in pursuit of a larger goal (such as a solution to my own precarious financial situation). Although this is also a card of generosity, I am tending toward the less generous outcome, more because of the job than anything. Still, I feel bad for her, so who knows.

Since these dilemmas are not pleasant to contemplate (if they were pleasant, they wouldn’t be dilemmas, I’m sure), I’m adding photos my zinnias. They might not have anything to do with anything I’m writing about today — they pose no dilemmas — but they do make me smile, and I can use a few smiles right about now.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator