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Sunday In The Park

Teri Orr, Record columnist

"Gardening surprises," my friend calls them. My friend with the perfect, meticulously planted, adorned, weeded, watered, trimmed, and tied-back garden. Even she knows that sometimes there is something greater at work going on and one should yield to the spirit of surprise.

It happens first in the spring. I mean, nobody plants dandelions, but they appear first, in the green grass, after a winter of pure white ground cover, and although we will eventually pull them out and later in the summer curse them when they reappear, if we’re honest, that first round of dandelions make us smile at their determination and bright cheer.

Or perhaps it is the wayward tulip. You know, you have carefully counted out the bulbs and planted them in a pattern that will be visually pleasing and then, in my case, coming through the rocks in the wall surrounding the tiny flower bed, a tulip pushes through and comes out between a couple of rocks, with no symmetry at all. And you watch with wonder as it finds the sun and opens and blooms just like all the rest but in a place of its own.

Chamomile that was my first backyard surprise. I had planted a bush last year and it flowered and I dried some of the flowers and leaves for winter bedtime tea. In the first of summer, tiny little green leaves appeared between the rocks in the patio. Not the wooly thyme I had nurtured there, no. Thin leaves with ruffly edges. Those I did remove. But I did smile at their determination.

Then maybe two weeks ago I noticed some stalks that had appeared when I was not paying attention to my yard. I knew their species immediately because I had seen them in others’ yards for years. In fact, I had painstaking tried to cultivate them myself when my children were little, but to no avail. It seemed I was being blessed with sunflowers. Four sturdy stems with shallow roots as I learned when I tripped in the yard and uprooted one. There was no replanting.

So now there are three. They have climbed tall, tall as me. And each morning the giant flower faces face the sun and then, as the day progresses, they follow the sun and I find the entire process a mystery and gift. I assume they were left behind by a magpie that enjoyed a bit of a sunflower seed from my feeder and then um, processed the seed elsewhere in my yard. So, in addition to enjoying the surprise gift of the flowers, I need to thank the magpies, which is always a humbling moment.

And finally, in the vegetable garden I have tiny path that cuts through the middle that is covered in polished rocks. Neighborhood children love to come there and pocket a rock or five and then disappear. I just buy more rocks and add them to the changing mix. So I was rather surprised when I walked along the path not too long ago and discovered beautiful rocks, not river rocks, but gem stones that appeared in my path. Blues and purples and greens. Round and polished to a shine. After the tiniest bit of detective work, I learned my young neighbor, Hudson, had talked his mother into purchasing them for Miss Teri. Or maybe Mz Teri. Hard to always understand the enunciation of four-year-olds. He and his small buddy had come over one day when I was at work and "planted" the rocks on the path. A garden surprise indeed.

Last weekend my part-time neighbor wandered into my yard and said the cul-de-sac gang was planning to barbecue stuff from their fridge around six and would I care to join them?

I grabbed some cheese and crackers and my beverage of choice and joined the gathering at the edge of my garden. Like so many Park Meadows cul-de-sacs from that ’70s-era construction period, there is an island in the middle of our circle. Ours has hollyhocks and rhubarb growing amid the aspens. Last summer, or maybe the summer before, a little fire pit was added. It encourages conversation after the sun goes down.

We had a feast. Heirloom tomatoes and basil, pork loin, ribs, hot dogs for the kids, chips and pickles and beverages all around. And we sat in lawn chairs and shared stories of Park City then and now. The part-time neighbor used to live here full time. Started work in the ’70s as a grip, I think, for Sunn Classic pictures. His work ethic and curiosity led him to become an in-demand assistant director for major Hollywood films. "Panic Room" comes to mind because we talked about that one the other night. How Nicole Kidman was slated to be the lead but Jodi Foster took over. How country crooner Dwight Yoakum had a minor role as one of the bad guys. But mostly, my neighbor has helped create the second in a series. Say, "Spiderman II" or "Batman II" or the last Indiana Jones film. We have nicknamed him Sequel Man. Which continues to be appropriate. He learned during his stay here, he will next be working on "Iron Man II."

Another neighbor has his own spa-repair business and we talked about hot tubs of the rich and famous being just like your own. The neighborhood children found long sticks for marshmallows over that fire pit and the grown-ups ate a berry cream roll whipped together by baker extraordinaire Vikki, the exotic Argentinean. Her husband is also in film. Formerly in documentaries, he is doing commercial work now all over the world. He is Austrian and their three daughters speak at least three languages.

When the sky grew dark we were still telling tales until one by one we took our leave.

When my adult daughter showed up in the morning to drop off a vehicle we needed for work, she asked me what had gone on the night before. I said we had a little barbecue, why? She said that would explain the table still in the middle of the cul-de-sac with the dishes and bottles and the long sticks on the ground.

When my children were small, we all lived in this same house, but the neighborhood wasn’t the same. It was more fractured. More isolated, house by house. That the younger, newer neighbors find occasions to gather and include the old broad is another gift of the summer. One I never planted but I am so happy to watch bloom. On random summer nights, occasional winter evenings, often all unexpected Sundays in the Park

Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.


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