And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I’ve never been much of a plant person, likely because I tend to kill them. My mother was very into plants, and I grew up in a jungle, with plants on every table and windowsill and in every available spot outside. My parents once received an aerial view of their house, taken without their knowledge by a pilot flying overhead, and there in the front yard, was my mother, bent over her flowers, weeding.
I’m more the type that likes to walk through gardens, admire them, and then go home.
But there are some plants that have managed to tug at my heart, including one that will be this week’s moment.
For the last several years, there has been an orchid in the AllWriters’ classroom. I don’t remember why I bought it, other than I likely thought it was pretty and maybe I was having a down day at the time. But it blooms regularly and always makes me smile. Before COVID, I gave it its three (not two, not four, but three) ice cubes once a week. Then, when the studio was forced to go remote because of the virus, I began to teach from upstairs in my office and the classroom remained dark. I remembered to water the other plants in there, but the refrigerator, with the three ice cubes, was on a different floor. I would tell the orchid, “I’ll get you later, I promise,” and then I promptly forgot my promise and the ice cubes. When it began to look sick a while ago, I brought it upstairs to our living room, adjacent to the kitchen with its refrigerator, and now it gets its cubes regularly again. I love this little plant, and its leaves, once limp, are raised once again in glory. I’m waiting for the first time it blooms in my home and not my classroom.
A few winters ago, when I’d just gone through breast cancer, my husband surprised me by coming out of the grocery store and handing me a bag. “Who wants to see something pretty?” he asked. This is a line from The Homecoming, the original made-for-tv movie that birthed The Waltons, my favorite television show. Olivia Walton (yes, that’s why our Olivia is Olivia) comes up from the root cellar and says to the children, “Who wants to see something pretty?” and then she pulls out her Christmas cactus, in full bloom. When I looked in the brown grocery bag, there was a Christmas cactus. It was a riot of color this Christmas, and I love the darn thing. Every time I water it, I whisper, “Who wants to see something pretty?”
And then, of course, there’s the hibiscus tree. That little tree, whose branch snagged me in that same grocery store at the start of the pandemic, carried me through the summer. The blooms were incredible and there were so many. I talked to it whenever I was outside. I took all of the photos of it and put them into a book, so I could admire them over the cold winter.
The hibiscus is inside now, and sadly, it’s not doing well. It lost all of its leaves. I haven’t thrown it out, telling myself that it’s dormant, not dead, but I’m pretty sure I’m just in denial. I water it faithfully and hope, but there is a vein of reality running through me. I look at the photo book often. I bought a baby hibiscus plant and it sits on a table in my office. It’s doing well, but I have a hard time connecting it to that magnificent little tree that seemed to know exactly what I needed.
And then this week. I was back in the grocery store. It was a gray Saturday, with more snow predicted. COVID is still with us. The vaccine roll-out has been a disaster. The mob insurrection at the Capitol was days away. We didn’t know that, of course, but there was a tension in the air. Anyone who has been paying attention to the news knew that something was coming.
I felt gray like the day. I went in to the store, picked out our Sunday doughnuts, then headed for the self check-out. On the way, I suddenly saw a small white garden table set off to the side. It was filled with primroses.
Hot pink. Purple. Red. Yellow. The colors were so bright, I felt like summer blew in through the doors and waited just for me on that table. I stood and admired them. I started to walk away, but then went back. “You’ll kill it,” I said to myself.
But there was one. Bright pink. It had one leaf curled like a beckoning hand and it beckoned for me. I thought of my orchid, the Christmas cactus (who wants to see something pretty?), and my hibiscus which got me through a difficult summer.
We are heading into a difficult winter.
I picked up the little pink primrose. And I brought it home. I transplanted it into a bigger pot and as I tucked the new dirt around the little plant like a blanket, I heard a plane fly overhead. I wondered if the pilot would take a picture, and if it would somehow capture me, not weeding, but bent over a little plant.
It made me smile.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.