There is something inspiring about spring and new beginnings, whether it's a seedling popping through soil or protons moving so fast they confirm a subatomic building block that gives everything in the universe its shape and size.
If you talk to real gardeners - the kind that dead head other people's flowers without even thinking - they will inevitably say "there is always next year." It's a hint of the hope, faith and trust these gardeners put into the concept of not giving up.
So it was with great excitement that I went back to the home of the family that first started the concept of restoring our great outdoors. Grey Towers, in Milford, Pa, now a leadership center, is the ancestral summer home of Gifford Pinchot, one of the main founders of the conservation movement in this country. Built in 1886 by his parents, James and Mary Pinchot, Grey Towers today reflects the family's personal contribution to re-planting the estate's barren hillsides after James encouraged his eldest son, Gifford, to become a forester.
While Pinchot was experimenting with rebuilding forests nationwide, his wife Cornelia was making her own unique contributions. Grey Towers tours tend to focus on the inside of the European castle-inspired home but we snuck outside after one of the guides showed us a priceless wooden table where Cornelia used to unceremoniously dump her garden gloves and boots.
One of my favorite spots is an oval window in a free-standing rock wall that frames an old cherry tree. I was told it is stunning when the tree is in bloom. I'm sure it is but what caught my eye was the bench nearby, which invites one to sit down as if to wait for the tree to bloom any minute.
There is another garden near their son's playhouse with a center narrow band of water lined with wildflowers. They were just starting to grow when I was there but I noticed the plants were in descending height order, a great way to trick the eye into thinking it is a shorter walk, especially if you're an excited little boy.
My favorite spot, and that of most visitors, is the "finger bowl," an oval, Italian ceramic-lined, above ground pool surrounded by 80-yr old wisterias. President Theodore Roosevelt, a close family friend, as well as other visitors would solve the world's problems there, under the open ceiling dome where moonlight poured through as they floated food across to each other.
Cornelia was known to flick a butter pad on the end of her knife across the pool to Gifford, who would deftly catch it in the middle of his slice of toast.
Talk about not giving up - how many times do you suppose they practiced that before they got it right?
I myself will try it again, too; outside next time.