April’s birthstone is the diamond. As we all know, diamonds are brilliant, coveted, and strong. When I think about diamonds, I think of a carbon-based object that has been kept under pressure and gone through a metamorphosis to create a beautiful gem.
Many songs have been created mentioning diamonds, from Rihanna, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Prince, and Marilyn Monroe, only to name only a few. They have chosen this gemstone to pay homage to. So why the hubbub about a stone representing a birth, power, and desire?
According to Gemselect.com, “The idea of birthstones — a gemstone assigned to each month of the year — is thought to be an ancient one, and scholars trace it back to the Breastplate of Aaron that was described in the book of Exodus in the Bible. The Breastplate was a religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The gems were set in four rows of three: Sardius, topaz and carbuncle; emerald, sapphire and diamond; ligure, agate and amethyst; and beryl, onyx and jasper.
So how did we get from gemstones representing the twelve tribes of Israel to birthstones? The writings of Flavius Josephus (1st century AD) and St. Jerome (5th century AD) made the connection between the 12 stones in the Breastplate and the 12 signs of the zodiac. The idea was proposed that each of the gemstones had special powers associated with the corresponding astrological sign, and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic or talismanic benefits.
This was still not quite the same idea as our modern concept of the birthstone. Based on this astrological model, one ought to own a collection of the 12 different gemstones assigned to the signs of the zodiac and wear the appropriate gem during the ascendancy of the corresponding sign. This is more like the Vedic astrological tradition of India, which assigns 9 different gemstones to 9 planets and prescribes the wearing of particular gems according to a person’s state of health and the challenges that they face in life.
The idea of each person always wearing a gemstone corresponding to the month of their birth is a distinctly modern idea that scholars trace to 18th century Poland, with the arrival of Jewish gem traders to the region. Yet the modern list of birthstones was not defined until 1912, by the National Association of Jewelers (Jewelers of America) in the USA. So, now we know.
Moreover, the owner of the April Yard of the Month is a gem in her own right. Definitely a diamond. Beola Hicks.
I’m going to date myself here. I met Beola at a Cooper-Young community meeting in or around 1981. I was 18 years old. I was quickly ushered in to work with the older group and ended up spending the next ten years sitting on the CYCA board. I never knew how old Beola was. She was the membership chair of this group.
Recently, I called upon her after seeing a request that was put out on Next Door from Sennett Holcomb, her neighbor, seeking an unwanted birdbath that was looking for a new home. He was helping her with her garden, and she wanted a birdbath. If I’m not mistaken, Beth Pulliam, who lives on Evelyn, donated her unwanted concrete birdbath for her. There it sits today next to a colorful bottle tree.
I’ve had her in my thoughts about being Yard of the Month for a few years now but something would distract me and I’d start on another yard. Well, I tell you, there’s something in the stars. I contacted Beola through Sennett and started the ball rolling. I asked her to take the title, and she was excited. She said that she’s turning 95 on April 29. What a milestone. I’m glad I held off till now. She moved into the house at 1889 Walker in 1975.
“And get this,” she tells me. “I paid 19,500 for this house!”
Sounds like that was a great investment, wouldn’t you say?
Beola has written a book and is working another one now. She is the matriarch of one daughter, one granddaughter and a great granddaughter. She is eighth of 10 children. She hails from Alabama and has lived in New York City and Chicago. While in Chicago, she had her own beauty shop. She’s has a full and rich story.
Beola’s property is located in the southwest quadrant of CY, a stone’s throw from Barksdale. Coming up to her property there is a brick entrance with a straight walk to the front door and a screened in porch. Beyond that is an elegant brick paved area with cozy seating just waiting for a cool breeze, a tall glass of ice tea, and friendly neighbors to stop to visit. The house is a bungalow with a little hip roof out front that’s painted and sided light gray, topped with a dark green standing seam roof. Almost all the houses in the area are the same design. A metal awning over the porch door creates a refuge from the elements for visitors. There is a natural grass lawn that encompasses most of the front garden. There are ferns that are perineal, all kinds of ground cover, and a stunning dark pink camellia.
Beola says, “You must plant the camellia must face north to be successful.”
Well, it’s working for her. A long row of arborvitae creates a natural fence between her and the immediate neighbor.
The aforementioned birdbath sits in a ring of stones as if it was sitting on a round rug. I’m certain this keeps maintenance to a minimum. I’m all for that! A lovely bottle tree shares this space. Along the front of the porch is an old azalea that she says, “has been trimmed back by Sennett.”
An American flag acts as an anchor on the corner of the front. A long driveway leads the tour to the back garden. A garage (I wish I had one) is on the back property line. It matches the house and almost disappears into the background. The entire back garden has dual level brick floors, creating multiple use rooms for lounging, cooking, dining, and gardening. A copper rooster weather vane keeps the visitor aware of their location and wind direction. The plantings are well established including more azaleas, monkey grass, spiderwort , hollyhocks, and pineapple lilies. Beola tell me that she still spends time doing chores in the garden.
She is a front garden on the 2019 Cooper Young Garden Walk along with Sennett that lives across the street.
I enjoyed my tour and visit with a friend and mentor from many moons ago. If you are in this area during the tour, stop and visit the true gem of a lady. She’s a diamond ring, bracelet, and necklace with the ruby slippers to hook up the entire outfit. I love you, Beola!!! — By Sharron Johnson