And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I’ve said before that I’m not a plant person. I always believed I was a sort of plant murderer, a belief that was mostly confirmed by my mother who always claimed that I killed her plants when I took care of them when she and my father were away from home. Yet somehow, despite not being a plant person, I now have plants on every floor of my home, including the AllWriters’ studio on the first floor. And I just ordered an upraised garden type of thing for my third floor deck. My vision isn’t for veggies or fruit, but for flowers. I even watched a video about how to do the “thrill, fill, spill” method.

Hm. Not a plant person.

Those who follow me know that I am particularly attached to a hibiscus tree. I shouldn’t use the singular – there have been three. The first was one that sat for years in the studio during the cold months, and then outside by the front door, shading a concrete lion, during the summer. I was bereft when it died.

When COVID came, I went masked and hand-sanitized and terrified into the grocery store near the start of the pandemic and found myself entranced by a bunch of hibiscus just inside the doors. When I walked around them, admiring them, one branch reached out and grabbed me. That hibiscus came home with me and became Ms. Hib. My lonely first COVID summer, isolated in my home and on my third floor deck, was eased by her presence as I spent a lot of time on that deck, setting up my computer next to her, photographing the amazing amount of blooms, and yes, talking to her. Unfortunately, I think I waited too long to bring her in for the winter, as I’ve since learned that sudden changes in temperature can kill a hibiscus, and that’s what happened. Even so, it took a long time for me to have the skeleton tree taken outside and disposed of. I kept hoping she was just dormant and would magically come back. She didn’t.

Last spring, hibiscus trees were slow to appear in the stores. The day I finally found one, I was grieving the death of a student, Carla. Carla, the recipient of a double lung transplant because of Cystic Fibrosis, spent that first COVID summer online and isolated with me, and we often exclaimed over Ms. Hib’s beautiful flowers. Carla passed on May 11th, 2021, and a few days later, as I wandered around a hibiscus display in Menards, grieving-Carla-tears were flowing out of control down my cheeks. And again, a hibiscus grabbed my sleeve.

She came home with me and is named Carla. Throughout the summer, she blazed fiercely with blooms and I applauded, and I talked to both her and the real Carla as I tended the plant. “Look at her,” I said. “She’s gorgeous and she’s a fighter, just like you. Thank you for pointing her out.”

I made sure to bring Carla in before the threat of the first frost. Even so, for a while there, she lost most of her leaves and I worried that I was going to lose yet another friend. But her branches never went brittle and a few green leaves always remained. There were a couple of winter blooms. I maintained hope. Set in my deck window in front of my desk, Carla keeps me company, along with the usual array of cats and dog, as I edit, meet with clients and teach classes, and write my own work.

And then…a bud appeared. I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated a bud so hard in my life. I watched it daily as it swelled. And then – KA-BLAM! – it bloomed!

Spring. The winter is over, despite it still being in the 40s outside.

Oh, that bloom. Of course, my metaphor-mind went nuts. The bloom was spring, yes, but also hope. Joy. Hell, it was a sign that life itself continues all around us, despite the horrific nature of the news lately. The “despite the news” that started this whole blog.

And of course, it was also Carla, whose first anniversary of her death is coming upon us. It was Carla waving and saying hello.

More buds are forming. Her leaves have thickened and are the most brilliant green. And all of her keeps turning toward the window, looking forward to the day I carry her back outside and she can bloom away for all to see from my third floor deck. She and I will talk about the raised garden, which is due to show up any day now.

But I’m not a plant person, no.

I’m really more of a Celebrate Life person, wherever I can find it.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Some of the amazing blooms from Ms. Hib, during the Covid Summer.
Carla on the deck last spring, soon after coming home and just starting to bloom.
This year’s first bud appears while still inside, on 4/26.
Three days later, starting to open! 4/29/22
KA-BLAM! On 4/30!

Keeping me company as I write this: Muse the cat and Carla.


Leave a Reply