The Gardener's Farewell

by Orangeblossom Took

Gardens are ephemeral things, changing or even disappearing with the seasons. This was what the elderly Hobbit thought as he walked around his garden one last time. Every day, every hour was different. There might be a burgeoning bud nodding in soft breeze in the blue light of evening and then, in the hour before dawn, a silvery rain might come and morning’s first light reveal a blossom, then, if the day was hot and sunny, the flower would dissolve into a drift of petals by the next evening.

Still, the thing he had come to love most about gardens in these, his later years, was that, in their brevity, they were eternal. New growth always came with the first days of spring. Blossoms and berries came later in colors of pink, blue, lavender, yellow, and red, then fruits and vegetables. Autumn brought grass dried golden-brown and piles of red, orange, and golden leaves before the cold rains that send most things into hibernation until it all began again, thought there were still red berries and green needles for Yule.

Today, on this early fall day he looked at the last of the roses and the dry grass, brilliantly illuminated by a crystalline sky. There were still a few roses, though some had gone to scarlet and orange hips. There were some gold and orange and white mums and a pumpkin patch. The leaves had been carefully raked and everything was brown, gold, and orange, with touches of red. He knew every inch of this garden. He knew the soggy spot that held the rain where he had irises in the spring. He knew which side got morning sun and which evening and where the snowdrops would come up.

A color that was not autumnal caught his eye. One of the last of the roses bloomed there as tenderly pink as a summer morning or Rosie’s cheeks when he saw her dancing all those years ago. This particular bush had graced his garden for fifty years. It did not produce the largest blooms or the most plentiful but it had the most fragrance. He didn’t pluck it from the bush but, with some care for his aching joints, knelt down and gently drew it toward his face and inhaled deeply.

The scent brought him out of the brilliant autumn day and into so many past summers, summers when he was younger and Rosie was there and a horde of golden-haired children, like so many buttercups, made the garden echo with their playful shrieks and laughter. The children were grown and Rosie was gone, his days were nearly done.

He did not even know if he wanted to do this thing, though he had begged to go on a September day long past. He wanted his bones to rest beneath Shire earth, yet there was something like a small hole in him. Despite the fullness of his life he had never really been whole. It was not a gaping emptiness like Frodo’s but it was there and he would be whole before the end and maybe, hope beyond hope, see Frodo again, just one last time. Someone else would have to tend this garden.

A stiff breeze came from the west and another scent blew in. Salt. The sea and the cry of gulls and the sound of Elf song. It was time to go.