My Dad has been gone for several years now, and I really do miss him terribly. He was always great at story-telling, and he could wow a crowd with his tales of adventures and sense of humor. My Dad was a hard worker and taught me about the value of a dollar and to be respectful, but there were so many sides of my father that I never even knew. I never realized that he was teaching me so much more than that. I’ve recently discovered a lot of things that I learned from my Dad, but never recognized until the last year or so.
My father was usually a pretty quiet and solitary man. He loved the outdoors, and spent many hours in nature with his beloved dogs. Dad always had dogs, and in his younger days, he had a farm with cows, horses, chickens, ducks, and donkeys. When I was little, we would take care of the animals together. I think this is why I love animals so much. If I lived in the country, I know I would have my own little farm.
Dad also was an avid gardener. I know this is why I love fresh produce and value a good home-cooked meal. My mother was the one who taught me to cook it all up at the end of the day, but my Dad always had amazing gardens with every kind of vegetable that you could imagine. I feel at home digging in the earth, planting my own vegetables and herbs within my limited space. These plants bring me peace and happiness, and I love sharing the bounty with anyone who wants to try some of my homegrown mint and herbs. There’s something about the smell of the earth and the soothing green leaves that makes me feel completely alive, and I realize that’s how my Dad felt, too.
We had a horse chestnut tree in the front yard that was one of my Dad’s favorites. I loved it every summer when the flowers would bloom, and the chestnuts that fell in the fall were always a great source of fun for the grandkids. The picture in this post is of a horse chestnut tree limb…this is when we would feel the growing excitement of the chestnuts that were starting to fall. It always signalled Autumn was coming, the harvest season was upon us, we had new beginnings for a new school year – so many feelings from the phases of one tree.
I knew how much my father liked being outside, but I never realized how strong his connection with nature really was until just a few months ago. One day it occurred to me that this was really his spiritual connection with the Universe; although if I had ever said this to him, he would have said I was crazy. Even though sometimes my Dad seemed solemn and basic, I realize now that he was very spiritual and this was part of the reason why he always was so introspective. At the time, of course, I didn’t know this was his way of reflecting on the energy of the world. I just thought he was solemn and basic.
He told me quirky poems and sang old songs that I thought were funny and always loved to hear, but when I shared them with my friends, they thought my family was very weird. I have tried to pass these on to my own children, just because I loved them so, but I’m pretty sure they thought I was weird, too. I hope they are passing them on to their own children.
My Dad had a way of teaching me about nature. He would tell me about the different species we would encounter on our walks – different types of plants and trees, frogs, salamanders, all the furry creatures we would come across, varieties of birds, kinds of rocks – I really thought there was nothing in nature that my Dad didn’t know about. There really wasn’t much he didn’t know, but there was so much more that he did know. It seems that he knew the souls of these things, too. Only I didn’t know that then.
If only I had known then what I have learned many years too late, I think my relationship with my father would have been much different. It was my foolish, young head that thought I knew more than I really did. I thought I had a grand understanding of the world, when in actuality I just had a vague understanding of how things worked. I had some knowledge that I had been so graciously been given, but I had no clue how to apply it to life. Those are the things my Dad was really teaching me when he was telling me about donkeys, or tomato plants, or salamanders and crows. I knew the names of the different trees in our local woods, but now I know about the souls of the trees. I wish I had discovered these things while my Dad was still alive, but still, I am so glad that I have discovered them while I am still alive. I am eternally grateful for all the things my father really taught me while he was teaching me.