Says she was a willful child— the little girl who chopped a row of her mother’s tall flowers down for looking at her funny when she came home from school. She planted snapdragons where the mocking birds of paradise had been. Snapdragons’ faces are fierce too, but sweeter. They don’t speak unless spoken to. They only laugh when a hand is applied to their delicate jaws.
Watering the plants yesterday, I learned a lesson about patience—a lesson my plants have been desperately trying to teach me for some time. They must be as frustrated with me by now as I have been with them.
When I started taking care of them, they were all nearly dying of heat and drought prostration. I started watering them and feeding them and, at first, they got a bit worse. It showed especially in the hibiscus. The blooms they had all dropped off. I was extremely disturbed and couldn’t understand why the attention I was giving them wasn’t immediately paying off. I kept taking care of them though, because it did me good to get a little sun and a little peace outside and not lock myself in, being righteously productive with writing projects, (read: dinking around on the Internet and taking naps).
It has been about six weeks or so since I started taking care of them. I went out yesterday to water and feed and noticed all the hibiscus that had initially dropped their blossoms were now thick with leaves and blooming like gangbangers with huge, bright flowers, more luscious than the previous ones had ever been. The top branches of the plants, once charred by the sun, had greened up and proudly reached for the sky.
I smiled at myself and shook my head. Oh, yes… patience. Delayed gratification. Hard work paying off, surely, but SLOWLY. All those things we learn but discard in the now, now, now.
I used to consider myself a black thumb when it came to plants, and now I realize maybe I just never hung around long enough to see the results of what I put into them.
I used to consider myself a black thumb with some of my seedling writing projects. Maybe I just never hung around long enough to see the luscious blossoms come in.
This morning, as I watered the plants, I noticed some green leaves on a plant that, previous to me making a routine of watering, looked entirely dead and brown. I am grateful for this. I am grateful for life in brown places.
There is another plant, the day lily my dog Oliver likes to eat, that is also greener than it has been. There are mysterious bushes around the columns of the pergola that are green on the bottoms and just bare branches on the top. The bare branches wind around the columns as if clinging to life itself. I suppose I must have faith the green and growing foundation I am helping build for them will help them be able to stand on their own one day.
There is a metaphor here.
There is a metaphor for writing and life. Something about giving your writing sustenance and trusting the ground it is planted in will become rich and fertile again, even after long periods of drought. It’s like that with me. I suffered a terrible writing drought lately, but once I started giving it the lifeline of daily practice and play, of getting out in the light and the air and the gentle morning sun, my drought has come to an end. The trick is, like the plants, that because I know I am in a drought-prone area, (I go through periods of barren writing times fairly regularly), I must hand-water. That is, I must not wait for inspiration to fall from the sky like rain. I must give myself the life saving element and, when rain does come, let it come, but not to be dependent on the fickle clouds.
I am grateful for this metaphor and for the real plants that have inspired it. Who knew I would find so much inspiration in “all that nature stuff”? I am beginning to feel what other poets and writers have felt. Weird.
My third thing is the bright orange blossom I found unexpectedly on the hibiscus bush with all the brown, dead leaves. She was lying low next to the planter box wall. She shook and shivered in the stream of water I bathed her with. Her face turned down then up again, grateful for the rain even if it came from a human hand rather than the divine sky.
My third thing is the beautiful blossom I took a picture of yesterday. It was beautiful because it was near wilting but still retained its dignity, just as my town attempts to do. Her petals were curled at the edges, but her stamen was strong, bright yellow, three furry tips and a feathered shaft, open, ready. Today I found her completely wilted, not brown yet but closed and drooping. I wondered what had happened overnight to cause her such sadness. Perhaps she had lived her life quietly and, but for the brief moment I snapped the photograph, mostly in anonymity as one small part of the bush by the pool that we very rarely notice. Even splashing by it, she looked on, maybe lonely, and we never saw her until I decided it was finally too hot to ignore the plants altogether and gave her a bath, too late.
My third thing is the plant over by the wilted blossom which bears clusters of flowers I can’t identify. I thought it was mock orange at first, but a bank of mock orange, that I know for sure is mock orange, stands stoically next to it, shading the side of the house, and this plant is certainly not one of their grim yet sweet-smelling council. She is the only plant of her kind in the yard. Her leaves are brown too and her buds are barely surviving. Perhaps one day she’ll tell me her name as I shower her and sing to her the way I do the other plants. Cosmically the singing and love-talk is supposed to get them all going. Un-cosmically I think it’s the life-saving water in the blaring heat.
I have even encouraged the volunteer grass in the empty planter bed to grow. i noticed it was almost dead this morning, with just a few leaves sticking out. It reminded me of that poem about rats wanting to survive more savagely than the narrator. It’s like that with volunteer grass, so I rewarded it for its trouble.