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  • One year I planted roses on Gotts Island.
    They were Robin Hood hedge roses in a land best suited for rugosa. They were beautiful. They bloomed in their second season; deep red blossoms and the shrubs had a promising shape.
    I thought about my roses often. During that winter, while I was in the hospital the roses in the field would float into my other, darker thoughts and I anchored myself to their image.
    It was a cold winter. From the 12th floor of my hospital room I could see ice forming on the Hudson river and steam rose from chimneys, in straight columns, into the frigid, still air.

    That summer, while I was beginning to convalesce, is the year we moved.
    First I spent a week on the Island, to visit family, and I wanted to see my roses in bloom.
    What I found were skeletons of roses bushes, long canes full of thorns and dead wood.
    I felt that I had scorched the life out of them to fuel my own recovery.
    Their sap now ran in my veins.

    When we moved to our old farmhouse there was a large rose bush growing right up against the foundation. I had to dig it out to make way for structural work. It had massive wooden roots that looked like driftwood.
    “It was here in 1904 when my Mother, then a young bride, arrived at the house.” Said Nellie Woodbury who was selling the house for her deceased sister, Maude.

    Once replanted, it was slow to respond and I was worried that I had killed it. Three years later, after meager growth, it suddenly took off. Now it sends out long canes every year with hundreds of lightly scented, ivory pink buds that open around the summer solstice.

    When I turned 30 I planted a chestnut tree to teach myself a lesson in time.
    I thought that I needed a new approach to the passing years, needed to measure the sense of lost time with a visible gain.
    That same tree died one year and then came back from the graft. I selected on of the many shoots that has now formed a tree of handsome proportion.
    I had wanted a lesson in time, and got an education in life.
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