Native Son – March, 2012

My Last Springtime?

I stop by Unity Church off Trail Lake Drive in Fort Worth, as I have a few minutes to spare and the feeling that walking the labyrinth might do my insides some good. I sit on a bench for a few minutes to center myself a bit, then rise to enter the labyrinth at precisely the same moment as the lawn maintenance guy fires up his riding mower. We exchange a quick glance that tells each of us that, for the time being, we belong to separate worlds. I have the luxury of seeking a few meditative moments on my day off, and he has 32 minutes to get the lawn mowed. Undaunted, we each move forward with our respective plans.

At first, I am a little perturbed by the loud noise, but I understand his side of things … heaven knows I’ve spent countless hours on or behind some kind of noisy machine. Still, he seems to be spending a whole lot of time mowing right next to the fence, about 20 feet from me. Hmmm … maybe he knows me. Another awkward exchange of glances followed by the “guy nod.” Nope. I press on. I came out here to do a little mind surfing, and by golly, it’s gonna happen. The mower seems to roar a little louder. All right then, I’ll just think a little deeper. Take that!

Pretty soon, I am mentally wandering through the bluebonnets, careful not to step on any of them. I can smell that special fragrance that only seems to rise from a large colony of them. Suddenly, there are families around, here and there, with toddlers bumble-stumbling though the flowers, oblivious to their camera-happy parents. An old woman carefully cradles a newborn child in her arms as she softly tells him that her great-great-grandmother carried her through the bluebonnets during her first spring on Earth. She tells the little one that this will be her last springtime, the last time she sees the bluebonnets. She faces the breeze, and it tosses her thin, white hair about her eyes … eyes that have seen 80 springtimes come and go. Suddenly, everyone else vanishes, and it’s just me and the old woman standing in the field of bluebonnets. She turns to me and gently asks, “Is this your last springtime, too?” Try as I might, I cannot utter a word. Smiling kindly, she walks away, seeming to float over the sea of blue blossoms.

A loud “twack!” brings me back to the physical world, and while I know the mower has simply run over a branch, it seems like a sign meant just for me. Maybe this is my last springtime … it would truly be a tragedy to waste it.

I have this little epiphany that we all live our lives surrounded, perhaps even enveloped, by noise. The world of commerce/business/schedules/toil that many folks insist on calling “reality” is a loud noise that can interfere with our focus on the important aspects of life. (Even as I write this, I can almost hear my Type A friends clamoring, “The work world IS reality,” as if sunsets, waterfalls, childbirth, love, and beauty didn’t exist before they got that supervisor job.)  Sometimes that workaday noise is just a little buzzing in the background; sometimes it is a roar that seems to consume us.

I also realize that it is largely up to each of us whether that noise controls us, or we control that noise. It is in the midst of this thought that I notice I am about to exit the labyrinth, and right on queue, the mower shuts down. Laughing out loud, I glance over at the mower guy. I am surprised to see he is laughing as well. Epiphanies can happen in any reality.

–This article is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Newby Brown, a woman who knew all too well the power of living for the day, and inspired me to do the same.

About the author: Steven Chamblee is the chief horticulturist for Chandor Gardens in Weatherford and a regular contributor to Neil Sperry’s GARDENS magazine and e-gardens newsletter. Steven adds these notes:

Don’t you dare miss the annual Spring Fling at Chandor Gardens! Music, art, and botanical beauty come together to celebrate the season. Saturday, March 31 (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Sunday, April 1 (noon to 4 p.m.). Admission is an old-fashioned $1. Just take I-20 west to exit 409, hang a right, go 2.1 miles and hang a left on Lee Avenue. Head straight 12 blocks and you’re driving in the gates. Call 817-361-1700 for more information. You can always go to for a picture tour and details.

I can always use another road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come out and speak to your group sometime. I’m low-maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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