• Patty Ihm

Waiting to Blow


He stands proudly with stiffened shoulders, cheeks puffed as to nearly usurp his smug stone smile. The sparkle in the eyes of this spritely being leads no one to suspect that he balances on legs and feet that have been smashed and broken.


As the guardian of this farm, I had failed to notice.


Tucked deftly at the base of the Sweet Autumn clematis, the garden gnome held himself so nobody would suspect a thing. The discovery came on a quiet, sunny afternoon dedicated to pulling weeds around the corn crib in preparation for a wedding celebration at the farm. I remember setting him there, my garage sale find, on a flagstone paver at the entrance to the enchanting little structure, as a symbol of good luck.


I had been worried for weeks that the Sweet Autumn clematis, strikingly majestic in her prolific late-summer bloom, would not show herself in time for the wedding. Each morning on my rounds to feed the chickens and visit the bees, I stopped to stare at the lush green climbing vine as it wound its tendrils around the iron structure and stretched to the heavens. As August progressed, buds began to form. There was hope.


It was in pulling the wild strawberry that covered the gnome nearly to his shoulders that I discovered the secret. He had been hurt. He had been broken. I will never know how it happened. But still he stood, smiling.


I kind of liked the wild strawberries, I decided right then. There's a freedom about them. It's that admirable quality that I sometimes see in my children. Also, they could cover the gnome's imperfections. I set him up straight and repositioned the wild strawberries. Nobody would suspect a thing.


My child lies in waiting. Nobody knows when the weeds will be pulled, when his hardest secrets will be exposed. He, too, has been hurt and broken. Nobody knows this when they see how he lays out for a ball in the outfield or lifts a frame of bees from the hive. Nobody knows that under that charming smile is the pain of being misunderstood, of being left behind, and of seeking something elusive. Nobody knows, not even he, that he is waiting to blow.


A few days before the wedding, a single bloom appeared on the clematis vine. Though beautiful, the show was less than impressive. I began to lose hold of the vision of a cascade of white flowers as the perfect background for a wedding day.


Something happened: a series of events that will never be fully told or understood. Maybe, part of me is grateful for what happened because through the pain and exasperation, change is sparked. There is, once again, hope.


It rained hard early on the day of the wedding. The groom and his comrades had built a wooden trellis which, laced with tulle and greenery, framed the couple in a perfectly beautiful ceremony held inside in the barn. Nobody seemed concerned that the Sweet Autumn clematis hadn't flowered.


Sometimes, I weep for him. For them. From my darkest places, I wonder about when the unthinkable happens, when they are discarded because their hidden secrets take hold. What if there has been no one to stand up for them along the way? Harder yet, what if there has been? What if there has been, and it still happens?


Sometimes I weep for me, because I can't be enough. I know it's up to him, in the end, to stand with the crumbled parts in the embrace and blessing of those around him, those who give him grace in the brokenness. I hope he knows that it's okay to be who he is. That's always going to be good enough. In time, we might not remember. But he will likely never forget.


He gets up, time and again, grinning like a garden gnome. One day, he will be in full bloom, even in the rain.


This morning, the clematis is something to behold, even from the road. The profuse blooms extend skyward. One cannot help but pause in wonder at the beauty of the flowers which came in abundance in their own time.



So I'm gonna weep a while

You don't even know how hard

I've learned a lesson

Don't ask me

I've torn the banner from the line.

--lyrics from Bon Iver, "Salem"

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