Much Ado About To-Do


The only way I can really explain summer in Florida is that it’s a lot like winter up north. There, the cold weather means the garden slows down. Here, the hot weather means I slow down. There are some days, many days when it’s just too hot to move.

The garden, though, doesn’t slow down. It continues to grow — and as a result, so too does the to-do list. That’s why “mow lawn” is always at the top of the list. Depending on the rain and my watering schedule, I have to mow the lawn twice a week — and after all of that sweat, sweat, and tears, it’s no wonder I fall behind on other garden chores. That’s where I am today, tackling some long overdue to-dos.

My first task was to repot some wax jambu seedlings. I admit, until a few months ago, I had never heard of this tropical fruit. In fact, I never noticed the wax jambu tree growing in a neighbor’s yard until another neighbor excitedly pointed it out.

He loves wax jambu. We picked some of the fruit, which looks like an apple, only different, and tastes like a pear, only different. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with the flavor — I’d rather have an apple or a pear — but, well, my neighbor. . . I offered to try and grow some wax jambu trees from the seeds inside of the fruit. Seven of the eight seeds sprouted and they now have pots to call their own.

Today also happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, and as a gardener who happens to be gay, I can’t help but feel a little bit contemplative and reflective as I putter about.

I was six years old when Stonewall happened. While I don’t remember the events of that day, I do have a memory from around that time in my life.

After a weekly family dinner at my grandparents’ house, as the women of the family cleared the table and did the dishes, my grandfather went to his chair in the living room. My father joined him in another chair — and I was there also, probably on the floor.

The men were watching the news and one item caught my attention. The reporter was talking about homosexuals or gays — I can’t remember the term he used or even the story’s purpose — and the footage showed men dancing with one another and walking hand-in-hand. Now, kids weren’t as savvy then as they are today, me especially — and although I always felt different, there was no way I had the knowledge or vocabulary to understand what I was seeing.

I asked out loud whatever the used-term meant, and the answer was quick and abrupt, “You don’t want to know about that.” The tone of voice was also clear: “It’s wrong and disgusting.”

Nevertheless, I was intrigued. It looked normal to me.

Some months ago, my friend, Neil, shared some gloriosa lily bulbs with me. It’s a vining plant, so I planted them in a very large pot on the patio and added a large tripod-like candleholder to use as a trellis. The problem is that I should have laced the tripod with twine to give the curled leaf tips something on which to cling.

That’s what I should have done, but I didn’t get to it — so now I’m linking the curly leaves so the plants can support one another. I don’t know if this technique has a name, but I’m calling it the buddy system.

Fifty years. I’ve seen so many changes in my lifetime. I remember when one of the many charges against the gay community was that we were anti-family, and yet the one avenue to be considered a family — marriage — was something that was denied. I never imagined that I would ever be able to marry the man I love, that we could be a family in our eyes and those of the law.

And so I can’t help but think of the trailblazers who set the stage for this moment in time — from the patrons of a NYC gay bar who, in 1969, had decided they had had enough of being targeted and harassed to a Supreme Court decision on marriage equality that changed my life to the everyday gay role models and straight allies who provide hugs, support, and inspiration for a new generation.

The dwarf red powderpuff tree is rapidly becoming one of my favorite additions to the garden. The leaves fold up at night, and it never stops blooming. I think the buds, which look like berries, are as intriguing as the flowers, which look like a feathery explosion of color. Then, there are the seedpods.

I admit I never considered how this plant makes new plants — not too savvy (at times) is a trait that has lingered — so I was surprised to see pods dangling from under the branches. When life gives you seedpods, it’s time to plant.

Dwarf Red Powderpuff Tree

Harvesting and planting seeds from the powderpuff was a task that never even made it to my to-do list. I guess that’s the thing with to-do lists. Once you think you’ve made some headway, new chores get added so the list never stops growing.

It’s the same thing with the fight for civil rights, gay and otherwise. Just when you think the fight is over, more issues get added to the to-do list. I don’t mind telling you on this day of Pride — alongside the rainbow-colored floats and balloons and the cheering and dancing — I worry.

I try very hard to not mix politics with this blog, but I think we can all honestly say that things today feel a little topsy-turvy, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. It’s difficult to have conversations, unless they’re polite ones about the weather.

Personally worrisome for me is a conservative Supreme Court. Just as a single decision changed my life for the better, I often wonder which case will be the one this Court reaches to change my life for the worse — one that could jeopardize my place at the table, a place that has taken 50 years to achieve.

I’ve started to check things off of my to-do list, but as I see the list getting shorter, new items keep getting added — like having to trim, again, the blue butterfly pea vine. Somewhere in that tangle of stems and leaves and deep blue flowers is a trellis — and it’s a constant battle to keep the vine within its pyramid-shaped bounds.

At the end of the day, I guess you can’t take your garden for granted. There’s always a to-do list.

At the end of the day, I guess you can’t take your rights, gay or otherwise, for granted. There’s always a to-do list.

15 thoughts on “Much Ado About To-Do

  1. I enjoy your posts so much! Everyone is precious in God’s sight. Good thing those people were
    brave enough to fight for their equality. Can the powderpuff tree be grown in Iowa? Maybe inside? They are so cool! Keep digging and planting!

  2. Kevin, Mowing is always at the top of my list too — but not because I do it so often. I tend to keep putting it off in favor of garden tasks I find more interesting or pleasurable. And, since I live at the end of a rural dirt road, there’s not much in the way of peer pressure. It is a bit worrying that I think I heard the farmer whose hay meadow abuts my property haying twice since the last time I got around to mowing the back. I have company coming next week, just the incentive I need to really put mowing at the top of the list.
    I am charmed by your red powderpuff tree.

    • Hi Jean. If only I could mowing at the end of my list… I think I’d have a jungle. As much as I love the idea of letting the lawn go as a way of inviting wildlife, even I have my limits on how many creepers and crawlers I’d want to risk stepping on as I gardened. (Besides, creepers and crawlers down here can be large and/or poisonous.) That being said, I also use company as a reason to get me motivated to get things done. 🙂 I know the powderpuff would never make it Maine, but this info may help if you’d like to try it as a houseplant. https://www.guide-to-houseplants.com/powder-puff-tree.html

    • Hi Bittster. As exhausting as it is to mow twice a week, there are some rewards. For starters, it keeps weeds from taking over without having to spray any poisons. My motto has always been: if it’s green, it stays. I also approach it as some sort of cleansing ritual as I sweat out my own toxins. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Bloomin’ Update 62: The Glorious Gloriosa Lily | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

  4. Oh Kevin! I’ve been “emotionally underground” for the month of July, but I have selectively been going through blogs I’ve missed and I am SO glad I didn’t miss this post. Forgive me for being late, however, because it is such a very moving sharing of memories and recollections. I took some time to read quite a bit about Stonewall with all the anniversary coverage. I was in high school at the time but I have very little memory of the event, other than it was another tumultuous headline in a year that had so many.

    I deeply share your concerns about the direction we are headed in as a country and the potential rolling back of progress along all civil rights issues and protections of the freedoms that have been so hard won. I do know that it is going to take vigilance and I tend to think many of us who have never had to engage in overt activism may be called to do a lot more than observe and worry. I’m thinking more and more about what civic engagement may look like. I could say a boatload, but I won’t here. 🙂 Your post moved me very much!

    • Debra — I wish we lived a little closer. I think it would help both of us to sit on a patio, looking at either a Florida garden or a California garden, talking, laughing, and solving the problems of the world. If only the world would listen to us. Hang in there, my friend.

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