No bunnies in the garden, Easter bunny statue
after a visit by the ghost, April 2009, photo ©
2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
On Easter Sunday night, the night Patty came over with my ugly rabbit in tow, the ghost was active. We sat in the great room, exhausted but satisfied. The party had been a success. The house was clean (we vacuumed up edible Easter basket grass from all corners of the playroom), ham was in the fridge, the dishes done. Patty, Jim, and I stared at my ugly Easter bunny — Patty found it at Marshall’s — and laughed. It stood two feet tall on hind legs. Other than the basket it carried in its paws, the rabbit was meant to be realistic, not a cartoon bunny. It was painted khaki tan.
When the gate outside the window snapped closed, Jim glanced my way. “What?” I said, knowing exactly why he looked at me. He told Patty that it was the ghost. Like Jim, Patty has a sixth sense. Jim told her that the ghost was matriarchal, that she had been a gardener and wanted the place to be looked after.
Patty looked out into the darkness. It was late. She got up to leave. I walked her to the front door as Jim took my ugly bunny out to the back patio.
The first year we lived here the ghost was most active in the master bathroom. She flushed the toilet at random, sometimes several times a night. One time she bumped me as I leaned over the sink brushing my teeth. Jim had also felt her presence, even seen her—not her face but the old-fashioned fabric of her dress—in the laundry room. I pictured her to be matronly, gray hair in a bun, benevolent but stern like an elderly woman in a Mary Cassatt painting.
But lately she’s been out by the side gate, along a brick path leading from the front porch to the rose garden in the back. That’s where the greenhouse is, too. Jim is convinced she wants to see us using the greenhouse. He thinks my recent project revitalizing the rose garden is especially making her happy.
It is a sweet spot. An old apple tree anchors it, hanging like a weeping willow over the large plot. In the dirt are the graves of two dogs, an entire sprinkler system that no longer works, and several round stepping stones that were (until we uncovered them) buried under debris. The only living remnants of a thriving garden, besides the apple tree, are the several rose bushes, one taller than me by a couple of feet. I’ve told Jim, “Someone once loved this space.”
It must have been lush at one time.
Day after Easter we wake to rain. It’s come down all night, gentle but steady. I stay in bed; I worked hard getting ready for the party, getting ready for spring, getting that special garden into shape for the first round of perennials I planned to plant there soon. Em runs into the bedroom.
“Mom, did you paint the rabbit?”
I’m not sure if I heard her right and if I did, what in the world was she talking about?
“Did you paint the rabbit??”
Paint the rabbit? I turn it over in my head. What rabbit?
Jim comes in behind Em. “Roma, the rabbit has green splotches on it.”
I get up, trudge to the windows looking out over the wet patio. There the ugly rabbit stands on hind legs. He is khaki tan, yes, but now he has big army green splotches all over him.
“Were they there before?” Jim asks, mostly to the universe. We wrack our brains. I don’t remember them. Em doesn’t remember them.
I call Patty. “Patty, our rabbit has green spots. Big green spots. Did it have green spots last night?”
“No,” she says, laughing.
“Are you sure?”
“I drove around with that rabbit in the back seat for weeks; of course I’m sure. It did not have green spots!”
We develop our theories: water-activated paint, all of us were just too tired to see the splotches, or the ghost has a sense of humor.
Two weekends have passed since Easter. I’ve managed to get more than 40 plants into the flower garden. Two mums, four hollyhocks, three clumps of daisy. I planted the Easter lillies we got as gifts for hosting the Easter celebration. Under the rose bushes I put leafy coral bells, the color of ruddy cheeks, as ground cover.
A patch of columbines sit in the shade of the apple tree, penstemons in full sun, flowering woodruff, soapwort, salvia, coleus for the exotic red-green foliage, evening primrose, Icelandic poppies, a bleeding heart bush. Near the brilliant violet of a plant whose name I’ve forgotten, I seed small marigolds. I can just imagine the bright orange-yellow against the purple in summer. Because I know Jim loves herbs, I plant a large oregano in the corner closest to the back door, and I leave room for the chives he bought at Grower’s Market.
Jim remarks that she’s happy to see the garden take shape. I have noticed less of her. The last time I felt her presence was one morning early in the week after Easter; I went outside, not a breeze in the air, and the gate swung slowly closed. It dawns on me that I had been schooling our pug, Sony, to use the garden as her potty area. Nowadays my refrain to Sony is, “Out of the garden, out of the garden.”
The ghost is happy.
Jim is comfortable with her presence; me, less so. I don’t much like the idea of just letting a ghost be. At one point I suggested that we invite a friend of a friend, a ghost whisperer, to come and at least make contact with her, see why she’s here. Jim looked at me askew. “You’re not going to pay for him to do it, are you?” I know what he was thinking: I know why she’s here.
And the truth of the matter is that I trust his instincts. I can sense that she’s found some peace of late. Or maybe it’s me, finally digging my hands into the earth, taking the patch of land into my care. A few days ago I moved one of the mums from the spot I first planted it. Too crowded into the rose bushes and the flowering woodruff at their base. I planted it in a roomier spot, in full sun.
Mums are an old-fashioned plant, hardy like dahlias and zinnias, a flower I associate with ancestors from a long-ago past. I have a feeling she likes them.
Image, I noticed the image of a face in this photo that Jim took of an ice crack over a hole, photo © 2007-2009 by Jim. All rights reserved.
Postscript: I wrote this as a Writing Practice (later edited) Monday night on the plane ride from Albuquerque to Portland. I was looking through pictures stored on my computer when I noticed the above photo that Jim took two winters ago. It is a shot of an ice crack over a hole. Suddenly the image of a face jumped out at me. It’s a benevolent face, like a young Madonna or the Christ child.
I marveled at Jim’s gift, how he can commune with hummingbirds (they’re back, by the way; just showed up this week) and the ghost of a former matron of the house. Patty says Jim is an innocent, that he has a clear channel to things the rest of us don’t.
This photo made me realize that the ghost is OK. As Jim said when I brought up the notion of inviting over the guy who talks to ghosts, “Not everything has to change. Some things are fine just the way they are.”