Saturday, May 18, 2024
backyardessaypet loss

Of Flowers and Memorial Day

bleeding hearts and stone cat sculpture
In the morning, gentle light.

These bleeding hearts are blooming, just in time for Memorial Day, leaning protectively over the sleeping kitty memorial in my back yard.

Bleeding hearts are an old-fashioned favorite with their large palmate leaves and long stems with unique flowers dangling like little purses, blooming profusely early in spring. If you are a gardener and know your common plants you’d know that bleeding hearts typically bloom earlier in the year, depending on your growing zone. In my area they usually bloom in the first week of May, but there are a few reasons why this one is blooming at this time in my yard, and a few reasons I’m surprised it bloomed at all, and it warms my heart to see.

bleeding heart with cat sculpture
A closeup of the flowers with the front flower not fully opened, and clearly heart-shaped.

I just planted this bleeding heart plant three weeks ago, to replace the one I’d planted when I placed this stone kitty in this spot in 1997. A friend who I sadly helped through the losses of two of her cats, even inviting her here to have them put to sleep just for moral support, got me this garden sculpture as a thanks for helping her. Through the years I’ve lifted the kitty, loosened  the soil beneath and added most or all of the cremains of whichever kitty I’d recently lost, depending on whether there was reason to spread other portions in a different place. Kublai and Allegro were the first, and along with them I planted a deep sepia iris for Kublai’s sable black fur and a bright orange blanket flower for Allegro, and a new flower for each kitty, along with daffodils and crocus just because.

Over the years the trees have grown over the site and in the shade many of the plants needed to be moved or simply didn’t emerge again the following year, except the bleeding heart. Then, a few years ago in spring after a particularly dry and hot year previous, the bleeding heart didn’t emerge either. Another was difficult to find locally, and in all that was happening otherwise I didn’t mail order one, just letting it go until…whatever makes me go and take care of these things.

It was to honor Cookie and Kelly, the last of that long line of rescues from years ago, along with that feeling of renewal in having young and lively Mimi wandering the yard with me that I intentionally went out to find a bleeding heart plant, brought it home, and planted it. And in short order we had five days of extreme heat, then storms when a branch fell on the poor thing and broke a portion of it, then freezing temperatures. I was sure it would fade and thinking perhaps I wasn’t meant to have one there anymore, Mimi and I went out to inspect the yard on Monday and I saw a tiny bit of pink through the emerging greenery, and there was just this one branch of little heart-shaped pockets in magenta and white. And I saw that the one branch left on this plant was leaning well over the kitty, holding the heart-shaped flowers over the kitty’s head.

stone kitty with bleeding hearts.
The entire branch is leaning over the kitty as if to protect it.

My family always called Memorial Day “Decoration Day”, where the graves of family members are decorated with wreaths and flags and freshly planted flowers. So this is a Decoration Day here as well, as I remember all the kitties whose earthly remains are placed there, and whose spirits I clearly feel as I stir the soil to add their next feline family member: Kublai, Allegro, Fawn, Sally, Nikka, Moses, Stanley, Sophie, Lucy, Namir, Peaches, Cookie and Kelly.

And here’s a gratuitous photo of Cookie that just happens to have a flag in it. It’s from July 4, but we still honor the holiday.

tortoiseshell cat
Cookie on my art table–it’s actually from July 4 in 2009, but it has a flag in it,

. . . . . . .

My mother on Memorial Day in 2007.
My mother at our Memorial Day parade in 2007.

Our community hosts its Memorial Day Parade on the Sunday just before the Monday Memorial Day holiday. If I never saw another parade I’d be fine but my mother loved parades, and while she and my father had moved one community over before I was born, she grew up in Carnegie, waving flags and banners at its many parades through the decades. For years, even before my mother’s lung cancer surgery that precipitated her final decade-long decline, I would take her to the Memorial Day parade so she could watch the school marching bands and fire and EMS trucks from Carnegie and all the communities around, re-enactment groups, politicians, clowns, Shriners and whoever else had agreed to march in what was often one of the first blazing hot days of the year. I have no parents’ graves to visit, not even a little memorial out in the back yard as I do for my cats—my mother had my father cremated and I had her cremated, both their ashes are here in my home. I listened to the parade on Main Street and remembered those days, and that was good for me.

. . . . . . .

Just a note: Some days I have my posts written ahead of time, like my rescue stories and art posts. Other posts are timely to the moment and I enjoy writing as the subject comes up and develops, as I did today, letting this post come together from my thoughts over the past few days beginning with the day the bleeding hearts began to bloom until yesterday when the story was pretty well-formed in my mind. Sometimes, however, my hands become fatigued from too much computer time which affects the repetitive motion syndrome in both hands and tendonitis in my arms, and I need to just stay away from the computer. I can still do other things like paint and draw and cut the grass and work in the garden as long as they aren’t repetitive motions similar to typing and mousing around—in fact, it’s good for my hands, and good for me to do other things. As a consequence, on these days, my posts are late, like today. But rest assured that all of us used our time well and had a great day playing stairway ball and making more keepsakes in my studio, and Mimi and I enjoyed a wonderful visit to the back yard.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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