July 16 • 08:27 AM
May 22, 2019
Last Friday, a farmhand and I rescued the west lavender plot. Again.

I pruned rows of Royal Velvet and Miss Catherine while Mary Ellen removed wet, trapped leaves that smothered the woody plants. Mediterranean natives, they didn't stand a chance of survival in those conditions.

On hands and knees, we extracted embedded Queen Anne's lace and branches with white mold. There's no better posture to learn the intimacies of the sub-shrub's anatomy.

As you may imagine, tending geriatric lavandula angustifolia is not fun. In our fields, the average lifespan for these English cultivars is eight years. Royal Velvet and Miss Catherine have bloomed profusely for eleven. A gift for this lavender grower and lover.

Nonetheless, I cannot deny biological signs.

"I think this is the last season for these shrubs. They're giving up the ghost," I said.

A woman of understanding, my friend nodded.

"Remember when the honeybees moved downhill as we harvested the rows?"

"Yes. And the scent was heavenly."

We commiserated and worked the field, facing the inevitable. At 4:30 p.m., I left my helper and stowed away the clippers and limped up to the house. An hour later, my husband and I drove south for a night out with the Royal Oak Symphony Orchestra.

Roberta, a fellow writer, had emailed the invitation with program details including Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto, Opus 14; Movement 1. The violinist had won her solo by competition with other high school musicians.

"It's the season finale," Roberta said. "And I'm playing second oboe."

Finally, a chance to see her perform!

After a brief discussion about the location of old Dondero High, now Royal Oak Middle School, Mel turned off Washington Street into the parking lot.

Silly me, I thought climbing stairs in two-inch heels would be no problem. Well, I did two years ago.

Terrazzo halls zoomed us back to our high schools in the 1960s—Mel's in Grand Blanc, mine in Warren. We took our seats in the auditorium built in 1927. Someone had vision to restore three murals removed from a wall and forgotten for twenty-five years. That's another story.

Friends and families of four generations filed down the aisles and into seats. The spirit of celebration and expectation infused the air for the Season Finale.

I spied Roberta in the orchestra between the English horn and first oboe. All I could see was the crown of Roberta's head, and right fingers on her oboe.

At last, Lizzy Vojtisek, a Southfield Christian junior, lifted her bow to the strings. I heard tenderness in Barber's plaintive call. With each repetition of his lyrical refrain, I rejoiced in the fulfillment of growing beautiful

living things that fed honeybees.

At the concert's end, I searched for Roberta in vain. I wanted to thank her for luring me off the farm to hear her oboe in concert.

Dear Reader, that night I witnessed an extraordinary musical community honor their youth. There, Lizzy's violin spoke a language older than words– one sympathetic to my biological signs and season finales.

Email Iris at

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