The Biggest Surprise Of My Life

– Posted in: Hardscaping and Projects, Wild Apple Woods

A week before my sixtieth birthday, my daughter said the family would like to celebrate my birthday late, after my trip, because of “technical difficulties.” “Oh, sure,” I agreed, but I was thinking to myself that “technical difficulties” meant whatever gift they ordered online wasn’t going to arrive in time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As my sixtieth birthday (which was this past April) approached, I decided it was time to start doing the things I had planned to do “one of these days.” And one of the things I had never done was visit my brother John and his family, who live in Hawaii. Hawaii in April–I liked the sound of that–and so did my sister Marianne, who had also never been there.

Marianne Hardy and Kathy Purdy in Hawaii

And while we spent the week in Hawaii, I imagined my grown children impatiently waiting for their “technical difficulties” to be resolved.

I could not have been more wrong.

The afternoon after I returned home, I found this cryptic message on my desk:

first clue of birthday treasure hunt

I could tell my birthday celebration was beginning, but I had no idea what was next.

Shortly afterward, I heard a beep-beep, beep-beep while at the same time a message popped up on my computer screen asking Where is that noise coming from? I tracked the beeping to a digital stopwatch underneath my desk, with the second clue attached. Kudos to my son Arlan for such a clever treasure hunt!
finding a clue in the birthday treasure hunt

Some of the clues were outside, and some were inside.

eggshell clue for birthday treasure hunt

One clue was even inside a blown-out eggshell, hidden in the carton in the refrigerator with the rest of the eggs.

mossy path leading to the treasure of the birthday treasure hunt

The next-to-last clue encouraged me to break the “rule” about no clues further than the mailbox, and led me down this mossy path…

balloon with last clue of birthday treasure hunt

…until I found a chilled and shrunken balloon marking a sign which read “Look around you, gaze far and wide, you can see your last clue from here.”

first view of garden shelter from the birthday treasure hunt

I turned my head to the left, looked up the hill, and saw–well, we call it the garden shelter.

I was never more surprised in my life.

Kathy Purdy seeing her birthday garden shelter for the first time

I was astonished…dumbfounded…

Kathy Purdy sitting in her birthday garden shelter for the first time

…completely and utterly gobsmacked!

Having fun with my new toy

I later learned our family friends Nicole and Derrick had proposed building a garden shelter based on an image in one of my Pinterest boards. Derrick and several of my children had built the garden shelter while I was away. The garden shelter was built in an area of our property (which I have dubbed the Wild Apple Woods) where I had spent the past winter making trails. But the trails never seemed to have a purpose or a destination–now they did!

garden shelter in May

By May, I had changed some of the furnishings.

wicker hanging baskets in the garden shelter

The gorgeous hanging baskets that adorned the shelter when I first saw it needed more sun than the woodsy location provided, and I eventually replaced them with some semi-trailing begonias.

finished garden shelter in August

Since then, my shelter has looked like this.

It was the perfect place to listen to the peepers this spring. That was probably the last time I sat in it for any length of time. I do sit on that bench–while I’m contemplating which branches in my gaze need to be removed in order to improve the view. I’ve also been busy transplanting spring ephemerals from Fern Alley to spots that can be viewed while walking to the shelter or sitting on its bench. Soon I’ll be planting ‘Pagoda’ trout lilies along that mossy path. And I want to find a vine to climb up the back. Any suggestions?

My heart is full

Always when I visit, I’m reminded of the family and friends who love me so much, and who went to such great lengths to give me the biggest surprise of my life.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Corner Garden Sue October 8, 2018, 7:54 pm

Happy Birthday, Kathy! I love the way they led you to your gift. What a beautiful place to enjoy nature! I am not sure if clematis pitcherii would grow where you are, but it’s a nice plant in Nebraska, and is not aggressive like some vines can be.

Kathy Purdy October 9, 2018, 8:10 pm

Thanks, Sue! I’ll check it out.

Dee A Nash October 8, 2018, 10:44 am

This is simply the best!!!

Kathy Purdy October 8, 2018, 2:15 pm

I agree!

Rebecca October 8, 2018, 10:00 am

Your family sounds like they are a lot of fun and terriblely creative! Glad you had a happy birthday.

Kathy Purdy October 8, 2018, 2:15 pm

Thank you, Rebecca.

Pat Webster October 8, 2018, 7:35 am

What an amazing gift… to have a family like that and to have such a gorgeous garden shelter. Partway through the clues (love that idea) I wondered if the gift was going to be a bridge. But a shelter is even better. Love it!

Kathy Purdy October 8, 2018, 2:14 pm

Pat, it shows you are a careful reader of my blog to have suspected a bridge. I hope you can come see the shelter in person some day.

Nikki R October 7, 2018, 9:19 pm

Congratulations! Such warmth & love from family and friends is a true blessing. A blessing you have been nurturing in your relationship garden for years. May it continue to blossom in surprising ways and at surprising times.

Kathy Purdy October 8, 2018, 2:13 pm

Thank you, Nikki!

Linda from Each Little World October 7, 2018, 4:03 pm

What a lovely and thoughtful gift. And what a wonderful family to know just what would please you and where to find exactly the inspiring image. Now I know why we add these dreamy pictures to our Pinterest boards! My birthday is in April as well and it is usually a good month to go somewhere warmer. Belated b-day wishes.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 4:13 pm

Thank you, Linda, for the birthday wished. The garden shelter was definitely a team effort with a lot of input from various family members.

Lisa at Greenbow October 7, 2018, 3:19 pm

Oh my gosh Girl, you are mightly blessed.
I have read where you thought about putting a chair in there somewhere to see part of the woods. I can only think this has usurped your grandest thoughts. A perfect 60th gift.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 4:12 pm

I mentioned in my last post a location where I wanted to put a bench. The bench will still go there, overlooking a brook. It’s on the other side of the property.

Janet Davis October 7, 2018, 2:05 pm

What a great surprise! Such a creative gift!

Debbie Barnett October 7, 2018, 12:30 pm

That is great. You will certainly enjoy that. Happy Birthday too.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 12:32 pm

Thanks, Debbie.

Pat Evans October 7, 2018, 11:29 am

What a fantastic surprise, not that a trip to Hawaii is anything to sneeze at.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 12:28 pm

Pat, you’re right–going to Hawaii was a great birthday present all by itself.

Laurin Lindsey October 7, 2018, 8:10 am

What a fabulous surprise! Happy Birthday welcome to the best decade of your life!

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 8:30 am

Laurin, I enjoyed my 50s; looking forward to my 60s.

Kim Halyak October 7, 2018, 8:07 am

What a beautiful gift for a beautiful woman. Happy 60th!

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 8:29 am

Thank you, Kim!

Elaine Poost October 7, 2018, 7:59 am

What a stunning and beautiful surprise.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 8:02 am

Yes, indeed, I was stunned for a bit.

Kathy October 7, 2018, 7:28 am

What a wonderful birthday surprise! You are so loved. I imagine many garden plans will be mulled over in your garden shelter.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 7:35 am

It’s a great place for mulling, that’s for sure.

Layanee DeMerchant October 7, 2018, 7:26 am

What a wonderful gift! I love the shelter and hope you post pictures of it in all seasons. Your family is loving, thoughtful and talented.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 7:35 am

My family and my friends. Derrick was the mastermind of design and construction.

Gail October 7, 2018, 6:48 am

So very thoughtful and cool.

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 7:33 am

I agree!

Carol October 6, 2018, 11:36 pm

I want your family!

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 7:33 am

Not for sale or trade!

Teresa Byington October 6, 2018, 10:46 pm

Happy belated birthday. Enjoy your new beautiful destination! ?

Kathy Purdy October 7, 2018, 7:32 am

Thank you!