It was a cool spring afternoon —the kind of day that entices you to be outside and take in the scents and colors of the pastures and fields. It was Sunday and Sundays in the south were a time to visit family. My uncle had an incredible yard filled with pathways for walking within the garden, benches to sit and read from or to just sit and watch the birds.
The trees and shrubs were filled with cardinals, bluebirds and Baltimore orioles. They must have had an acre of azaleas, gardenias, and magnolias. There were whole areas of different colored roses. I loved it and could spend hours walking the pathways.
My uncle was a naturalist and studied the plants and the creatures that made his garden their habitat. Because of this love, he became an avid reader as well. His study was filled with books about birds, plants, reptiles, and animals. He had books by John James Audubon, John Muir, and Teddy Roosevelt. He was a true lover of poetry with Henry David Thoreau being his favorite.
My uncle didn’t have any children and when Daddy told him how I loved to learn he asked us to visit and he would teach me about the world outside the window.
That’s what he called going to school because he said all he did in school was look outside the window. Even though we had moved to town by this time Daddy made time to bring me for regular visits, visits that changed how I viewed the world.
We took some fresh-squeezed lemonade with us and sat outside by a tree. He told me all about the plants he had in his garden and how he planted them so the flowers and shrubs would bloom almost year-round. In his hand, he held a worn leather-bound notebook where he had drawn out the plans for his massive garden. He was an inspiring artist as well. I was hooked from the first day and wanted more. He walked me through the garden talking about each plant and showing me where he has made a pencil sketch and wrote information about the plant underneath.
He always wore a linen suit even when gardening or painting. He traveled extensively in his life and had many paintings of the places he had been. I would sit quietly and study the artwork hoping that someday I would see the places in his paintings.
Part of my schooling was to sit on a bench in the garden and read for one hour. His wife would bring fresh baked cookies and real milk from her cows out to me. I could get lost in this world they lived in and I knew my destiny was beyond the fields and forest.
One of the last things he taught me before he passed was poetry, classical music, and Jazz. That seemed to be the trinity for me throughout my life. I took his teachings with me and always made art, books, and music the catalyst for everything else I would do in life.
Point Of View
One person can change your life and open doors that otherwise would remain closed. One person can set you on a journey of learning that still burns in my soul even now. My Daddy was wise in that he was aware I needed more than he knew, and my Daddy knew a lot. He taught me to believe in myself, to have courage and to never lose my imagination.
My uncle taught me how to learn and I have had several people that shared with me their knowledge and guided me along the pathways of life. The last thing my uncle gave me was his army compass and told me that I had many compasses that would come to me during my life to help me find my way and he would say you will never be lost.