Gifts From My Father

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A walk in the woods on the Pendergrass family farm this Spring.

My father has blessed me with…

A true and absolute love of gardening and nature. A walk in the woods with my Dad is always something special. He knows the woods, the land, the flora and fauna, and animals so well that every walk is a learning experience. He knows the vines of various wild roses and can point out the differences in the Spring, pre-leaf and bloom, just by vine color alone. He has magically transformed the muddy side yards of his home into beautiful rock gardens with stone pathways overflowing with Iris, Lilies, Sedum, Hostas, Daffodils and Roses. To the left, you can see one of his newest projects – a Bonsai Maple forest. He has also started a Cedar Bonsai from a sapling he picked-up on the family farm.

My father is a nurturer and caretaker of plants. As a child he would gift me cactus gardens filled with crystals and precious stones. He still has plants from my childhood, now over 20 years old, some of which he has split into new pots and sent home with me. It is now my job to care for them as he has over all these years. Gardening has always been a bond for us. Even in difficult times.

Dad hosting open mic night at the Java Joint in Bardstown, KY.
An artistic mind, inclined toward music, design and creativity. My Dad is such a creative spirit. While his gardens are their own unique creations, the power of music fills his heart and soul. He loves and enjoys music more than anyone I’ve known in my lifetime. I grew-up listening to U2, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, Neil Young, Michael Jackson and Lucinda Williams, amongst many others. I’ve been to more concerts with my Dad then I can count. I remember sitting next to him at my first concert at age six in Bernheim Forest watching Judy Collins. I cried when she sang Send In the Clowns. I knew right then I would always love music.

He occasionally hosts open mic nights, manages sound for local bands in the town I grew-up in, and records and masters their albums. He spent a year making a go of a live music venue in town and, while it didn’t make it, everyone had one hell of a good time (Did I mention my Dad knows how to party?). His current living room is a music studio complete with stage, microphones, amps and a vast array of instruments and recording equipment. He is even the recorded voice filled with historical facts when you call City Hall in Bloomfield, KY. Someday I hope to have him read some poems for this site so you, too, can hear his melodic and lyrical voice. It is a voice of my childhood, and a comfort to me over the phone when I am traveling and far away.

A curious mind with a liberal and informed outlook on the world. I was always ahead of my writing and reading level as a child, and my Dad was likely a prime motivator. Our family often jokes about the capacities of the “Pendergrass Brain” (it is a unique gift to be sure), and my Dad ensured I put that brainpower to good use. From a very young age I was well-rounded and informed about other societies and people, and the bigger world outside my hometown. He worked at the Associated Press for over 25 years, and would pick-out some of the most fascinating photos off the black and white news reel and bring them home so I could see and understand other people far away. He would tell me the stories of where they were and what they were going through. I would tape their faces to my wall, and fill my scrapbooks. While my Dad himself isn’t too fond of traveling he was always well informed, and opened my spirit to a broader world of travels.

In elementary and middle school he gave me books on Native American history and legends, books of poetry by Robert Frost and other writers of nature, books on religious history and the stories that were stripped from the Bible, and books filled with art by Georgia O’Keeffe and other women artists. My mind was opened in vast ways and would never again close. He helped me see the world in a beautiful, golden light.

A model for how to live in the present moment. I have never seen an adult living so in the moment as my Dad. He is where he is. His thoughts rarely sway outside of the task in front of him, and he lives in the space he is in. From what I can tell he doesn’t wonder cautiously about the future or worry about what is past. He is always fully here, in the now. It can sometimes be a great frustration to those of us running around from one thing to the next, who want his attention elsewhere. But when you finally have his attention where you want it, it is fully yours.

Recently Dad and I worked on a small gardening project at my grandparent’s house (pictured to the left with Dad in the background) – we planted a Harry Lauder Walking Stick (Curly Witch Hazel), Purple Phlox and Iris in a spot where an overgrown Holly was previously. When Dad was working to til the earth and prep it for the compost and fresh soil my grandmother turned to me and said, “Your Dad is always so thorough with everything he does. He is so patient. He never rushes or hurries and he does such a good job.”

It is true. My Dad is a patient man. A quiet man with a good heart, and a rock and roll soul. I hope to someday slow down and enjoy each moment as much as he does. In the meantime, in the middle of my hustle bustle life it is wonderful to go and visit him, have a few drinks and good food, listen to some music, dig in the dirt, and talk about family and the big, wide world. He makes it good to go home.

Happy Father’s Day everyone. I love you Dad!

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