a message to baa-chan’s garden
To the flourishing plants I remember fondly,
To the butterflies and cicadas that I spent hours catching,
To the koi fish and turtle in the little pond,
To my baa-chan and the plants under her care,
I still think of you. When I think of Okinawa, I remember you first; the pathway lined with green, large leaves swaying in the wind, flowers growing bright and vibrant after typhoons. In my mind’s eye, I walk slowly through you, reaching out to run curious fingers along the stems. I am smaller, much younger, in this garden. I have not yet learned of the impermanence of things.
My baa-chan used to tend to each plant so carefully, giving it her attention as she watered and pruned it, checking for harmful bugs and sickness. In that little corner of the world, I used to imagine little dragons and lion dogs living in the roots of trees and dancing on the petals of flowers.
My baa-chan grew magic there.
And there was a little pond, lined with large, gray stone like that found in the walls surrounding Shuri-jyo. I would wake up early just to feed the fish and watch the turtle swim around them. Life thrived under my baa-chan’s warm gaze. You were a monument to healing after she lived through so much loss.
They destroyed you, the garden and the pond, after my baa-chan first collapsed. They built a new house; the old one had been standing since before my mother was born, and it was too tired to continue holding us all. I have trouble recognizing that house now; without my baa-chan’s garden, is it really home?
These days, I say nothing of my memories, and speak as best I can to my baa-chan. Our sentences repeat, the wordss forgotten the moment they’re set free in the air, and I wonder if she remembers how she brought to life even the weakest of plants. Will you remember her when she is unable to care for you? Will she remember you at all? Or will my heart be the only one that lingers on a place long gone?
I wanted to tell you, that garden and all it held, that I keep you alive in my memories. I tend to you with my baa-chan, who is just as I remember in my mind. I will make sure you don’t wither. I will have the dragons and lion dogs and turtles and koi fish live in that beautiful corner of the world. There will be no graves for gardens, just opportunities for new ones.
As I grow older, I find myself carefully tending to plants as my baa-chan once did. I start my own little garden, carefully line the walkway with potted flowers, and watch over them each day.
Baa-chan, do you know that I inherited this from you? Will you remember your garden through me?
Enough years have passed that I don’t remember the specific plants you held. I don’t remember much beyond the soothing green that surrounded me. My mind fills in the blanks, carefully adding flowers here and there, letting the memory of my baa-chan watch over them carefully.
I spotted a hibiscus at a plant nursery and was overcome with nostalgia and homesickness. I bought it without a second thought just to try and keep the garden with me. It’s too hot and dry here, nothing like the humid air of Okinawa, and I do my best to keep it from wilting.
I tend to my little hibiscus, carefully watching it grow.
I wait, endlessly, for the blooming.
To my baa-chan’s garden:
I hope you can live on through me.