The Old Oakleaf
About a week ago I was sitting in an interview in New York City at the Garden Club of America headquarters. I was there interviewing for the RHS Interchange Fellowship, and opportunity which allows one American student to live in the Britain for 10 months working in some of the world's most exciting horticultural institutions. I was all kinds of nervous and all kinds of excited. Put these two things together, and I really hadn't eaten much in the 4 days prior to the interview. The selection committee walked me back into a beautiful library filled with garden and plant books. In this moment I felt all the anxiety melt away. There is something comforting about being in the company of people who love plants.
One of the first questions I was asked was what my favorite plant is. Immediately, the words Hydrangea quercifolia popped into my head... the Oakleaf Hydrangea. We have a huge one at the corner of our house that has been there ever since we moved in when I was 6. Since I can remember, that hydrangea was the first thing I saw when I returned home. I first answered the question by talking about the Oakleaf Hydrangea's beauty through all seasons of the year. How the leaves bud out in the spring in a bright, fresh green, almost before any leaves have started to appear on the trees. The huge white blooms arrive by May signaling school being out and warm weather moving in to stay. By the end of summer the blooms have faded, but the spent flower heads turn a translucent brown and the leaves fade from orange to red and purple to brown. In winter a few leaves hang on while the exfoliating bark of the hydrangea takes center stage. Before you know it, the leaves are budding out again and spring is on the way. I love the rhythmic cycle. I love the dynamism. I love that to me, the Oakleaf Hydrangea means home.
Two days after I returned from NYC, I received an email from the Garden Club of America telling me I had been selected as the 2016-2017 RHS Interchange Fellow. In September I will leave for the opportunity of a lifetime, meeting more lovely people over the pond who love plants and gardens. I think humbled is the only word which adequately describes how I feel. This fellowship has been a six year dream of mine, and I cannot believe that it is real.
In the days between my interview and the email, I was praying these verses over and over.
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;"
May every day be to him who is able to do so much more than all I could ever ask or imagine.
This weekend I have been home for the first time this semester. The leaves on the old Oakleaf Hydrangea at the corner of our house are popping out in the most beautiful shade of green. Each time I pass them I am reminded of the beauty of new beginnings. But I am also reminded of home. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to go, to leave home and to live in a new place and to learn new things and to build friendships with new people. But I am also grateful for firm roots at home that are constantly nourished by those I love and who are cheering for me. And even when I am away, I will know my old Oakleaf Hydrangea is waiting to welcome me home when I return.
So this begins a new era in Roots and Ramblings... the British Edition! Over the next few months I will be planning out what gardens I will be working in and practicing my tea drinking regime. Cheerio for now!
**Special shoutout to Momma Hendry who explored the Big Apple with me and is the cutest in the snow. Another huge air hug to the two best friends in the world who drove me to the airport at 3 in the morning due to concerns about my mental state post midterms (which were substantiated by instances of me brewing coffee without a pot underneath and putting chicken in the pantry thinking that it was the refrigerator)**