Yesterday I walked with my husband through Golden Gate Park. One of our city’s most wonderful and varied resources, it reveals deeply hidden treasures each time we visit. From the entrance near 9th Avenue, we ambled all the way down John F. Kennedy Drive to the beach. The roar of the ocean reached our ears long before we saw the waves cresting in the rare June sunlight. On the way there, we passed through an overgrown path that almost disappeared under low-hanging trees. I heard an agitated chirp, and B. pointed above my head, to the source. Two robins intertwined on a branch. After the larger one flitted around wildly, we realized she was a mother feeding her young–depositing long bits of worm into his mouth. We had never seen this before! The two of us stood very still, looking up in wonder until she flew away. Not wanting to further disturb the baby, we moved on.
Today is my mother’s birthday; she is 84 years old. Seeing the birds yesterday reminded me of how long ago, she nursed an injured robin back to health. I like to think it’s part of our Russian heritage to love nature. We often worked together in the yard when I was growing up, as she showed me how to sweep up fallen cherry blossoms, prune wisteria, and plant violas, lobelia, and other greenery. “Oh, how I love the smell of the soil!” she exclaimed in her thick accent. She passed on to me this great love, which she found so healing. After I moved out of her house, she eventually lost it to foreclosure, when she became so delusional she could no longer work. Unable to help at the time, I knew how devastating it was for her to lose our home and garden. Once a successful civil engineer, she’d worked so hard to attain this dream. Now, I see even more clearly what such a loss meant to her, no longer able to live on her own. Watching her struggle through the years since then, I marvel at her strength in the face of such obstacles, her obstinate clinging to her identity and personhood, and the unwavering love she’s always given me. Now, in my own garden, I see her in the face of every creature, each leaf and every flower.