Passing by my adopted grandmother’s camellia bush in the side yard the other day, I saw to my surprise that it was blooming – two full, fuschia-pink blossoms and a faded one amid glossy dark leaves on its two long branches. I breathed a deep, unconscious sigh of relief and joy: this, for me, was an autumn miracle.
One year ago, I had stood in front of this near-century-old bush and noted the tufts of foliage and flowers adorning the very tips of its spindly, bare branches as they protruded into the walkway. Every year, I would trim them back to allow room for me to walk past, and every year they would spring back with yet more shoots, brushing my face with their summery-fragrant flowers, incongruous in the sharp November air.
That heavy fragrance – lusher than that of peonies or roses- was the scent of diehard love in my nostrils. It was the scent that had hung heavily in my mother’s hospice room as Dad and I brought her bouquets for a full month before she passed on the day after Thanksgiving. It was the scent of the bouquets I’d brought my father as he began his decline seven years later. And it was the scent of the bouquet the nurses had sent away from my husband’s ultra-sterile ICU room as he was sinking, with only brief moments of consciousness, toward his death from massive sepsis following experimental cardiac surgery.
It was the scent of flowers I brought to graves on All Soul’s Day.
It had looked last year as if this bush itself was on the way out…as if all the prayers for the lives of others that I’d whispered as I snipped its blossoms would be denied yet again.
And I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Tracing a series of Reiki symbols in the air over it, I entered a meditative state, asking the bush, “What do I need to do to help you survive?”
The answer arose in my mind: “A hard pruning in February.”
I stepped back in surprise: the image that had come to my mind was of the bush’s branches cut back to stumps. “Really?” I asked, and in my mind felt the bushy equivalent of a nodded head.
Going inside, I Googled “When to prune a camellia bush” and saw that the guidance I’d received was correct: a hard February pruning was credited with bringing even century-old bushes back from apparent death.
All right, a hard pruning in February it was, I thought, and noted it in my calendar.
It didn’t happen in February, when drippy cold alternated with spits of snow and sleet. March brought almost daily rain, and it wasn’t until the end of the month that I ventured outside with handsaw and wound paint to do the job. Cutting back the bare branches, whispering apologies and flowing Reiki, I left only two that already had prescient sprouts emerging along their length. I cut them back to the farthest shoot, and daubed all of the cut ends with wound paint, noting with relief that they were all seeping with sap; they were alive.
“Please come back strong,” I whispered…and whispered it again and again as I gave Reiki to the bush over the next five months, watching as the two remaining branches put out the glossiest leaves I’d ever seen. Would the others come back? I could only hope.
It wasn’t until June that the first shoots appeared – no, exploded – on the cut branches, as if the weight of deadwood removed had brought new life to the roots. Just as the spirit-input and the gardeners’ forum had promised, the hard prune had brought the bush back from near death.
And now – blossoms, with buds for more studding the two long branches. The new growth would not bloom this year, I knew, but the future of the bush was assured.