Ten years ago, I added Toni Morrison’s words to my photo of bleeding heart vine. The words captured my emotions in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. The flower? Well, all of our hearts were bleeding.
This is a baby staghorn fern. I came across it recently while doing some therapeutic weeding — therapeutic for me, not so much for the weeds. I was actually surprised to see it because the closest mature staghorn is in the across-the-street neighbor’s backyard.
Plus, it was clinging to stone. In the wild, these tropical epiphyte ferns use their roots to grab tightly onto the bark of a tree while its fronds take in the needed moisture and nutrients. This little guy, though, was holding onto the rough, hard surface of a paver used as a retaining wall for a raised bed.
The more I considered its journey from a spore drifting on wind currents to its determination to hold onto something — anything — solid, the more I realized that this was the best way to illustrate my absence for the past few months.
Without going into detail, the bulk of 2020 saw Joe, myself, and his family protecting ourselves from COVID while also caring for the health of his father. Dad was diagnosed in May with malignant melanoma.
In a normal world, life is a rollercoaster. COVID, though, seemed to stifle and slow many of the ups while adding speed and dangerous curves to the downs. By the end of 2020 and into 2021, Dad needed round-the-clock care. On February 3, he passed away as a result of his weakened state, which itself was the result of two surgeries and general anesthesia that seemed to exacerbate his Alzheimer’s.
Since then, Joe and I have worked at catching up on chores long neglected: AC maintenance, plumbing issues, tree removal and shrub pruning, and that therapeutic weeding.
Through it all, though, we’ve reflected on Dad. He was many things to so many people. He was a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, uncle and friend, and coach, referee, umpire, and mentor. To me, he was my father-in-law, a kind, decent, honest, and gentle man who lived life to its fullest. He’s also the man who instilled these same values in Joe, my husband and partner.
I admit that while some days have felt almost normal, other days have been, well, a daze. It was on one such day that I looked up and spotted an orchid blooming way up high on the trunk of a sabal palm, one that I had tied to the tree before I knew anything about how to do that.
At the time, I was told to wait for the flower spike to finish and to just tie it. Climbing a ladder, I slapped the clump of roots — no additional sphagnum moss, no coco-fiber lining to keep things together, no nothing — and sloppily wrapped green floral tape around the orchid and palm trunk, hoping for the best.
It has never bloomed, not once, since I tied it up there. Some years, it looked as if it was barely alive.
This year, though . . . this year it’s flowering, its roots firmly attached to the trunk. It gave me a reason to get the ladder and climb up to get a closer photo of this miracle on a tree trunk, a reminder that we’re all holding on and we’re all going to be okay.
A few word: One of my small Tillandsia plants flowered — and now it looks like a fanciful cupcake with a vibrant blue candle.
As 2019 comes to a close, I thought this would be an excellent time to wrap up a few loose ends — or, rather, unwrap a few small packages and share the good things inside.
Small Package #1:
In April 2018, before I left my nursery job in a local box store, I purchased a small vanda orchid. Vandas are incredibly beautiful plants. Flowers are large and plentiful, and the roots hang down from the pot openings in long strands, absorbing moisture from the air. Normally, when these orchids are sold fully grown and in full bloom, they can cost as much as $30 — and that’s on the low end.
It’s always been my gardening opinion to not purchase expensive plants, and to never purchase plants in bloom. Personally, I’d rather have a plant that hasn’t been forced into bloom so that I can enjoy the flowers for a longer period of time.
Such was the case with my vanda, a large purple and white speckled variety. I noticed it on an endcap in the garden center, part of a display of various orchids packaged in small bags made of netting. These are younger plants, grown from award-winning stock, and all that’s needed is time, patience, and about $11.
The plant, though, never seemed to get any larger and I was surprised to see it send up a flower spike. Maybe, I thought, this is what they do. Eventually, the flower buds opened — and the flowers, although lovely, looked nothing like the original package. They were red and they were small. Very small.
Although, I no longer had the receipt, I reached out to the company, Better-Gro, on Facebook. I shared photos of the original packaging, which I had saved, and of the flowers that bloomed. In a true testament to their excellent customer service, they quickly responded with an apology
Good Thing #1:
Within two days, a small package arrived. Inside was a replacement plant that was my original intended purchase, and one which I am now showering with time and patience.
Small Package #2:
At about the same time, another package arrived in the mail. It was from a former colleague of mine, Diana Marik, an English teacher who is now living her retirement as a paranormal romance writer.
Good Thing #2:
This is a surprise, I’m sure… In this trying world a spark of joy is here. Since I’ve already dedicated the first six books to close friends and family, I decided to dedicate this book to you.
When we had worked together, we were both independently thinking — dreaming — of writing a book. At the time, I was playing around with the idea of compiling blog posts and photos into a book format, which eventually became Seeing Green. I had heard through the school grapevine that Diana was also exploring writing.
One day, I visited Diana while she was on hall duty and we had our first book-writing conversation. We spoke of the stresses and time, genres and the possibility of self-publishing. At some point, I mentioned that I had registered for a self-publishing conference in NYC and I gave Diana the information. We met in the city that day, attended various workshops, and shared what each of us had learned.
I never forgot the simple act of kindness of informing me about the Self-Pub Expo in Manhattan and pretty much holding my hand when I was so nervous about discovering this ever-changing, crazy world of publishing.
Isn’t it amazing how simple acts have such a profound rippling effect even when we’re unaware of it?
Amazing, indeed. Uncharacteristically, I found myself at a loss for words. I was touched, honored, humbled, flattered — and none of these words can truly capture the feeling. It was amazing.
Small Package #3:
Joe and I stopped sending paper Christmas cards years ago. As much as we love the idea of sending holiday messages to friends and family, there was something — whether it was the number of trees needed to produce the paper or the money for the cards and the postage, and then to have all of it tossed out at the end of the season… It all seemed wasteful and especially unnecessary in this digital age.
We did, though, have so many peoples’ emails, Facebook contact info, and cell phone numbers. For us, it made better sense to make our own digital card and send it to everyone — and they could print it or delete it. Either way, they would know they were in our thoughts.
Good Thing #3:
So, from Joe and me to all of you:
Since moving to Florida, there are times when I feel as if I’ve landed on another planet — and it has nothing to do with the news items that have made the Sunshine State the punchline for late-night hosts. For me, the sense of wonder and bewilderment is the result of plants.
This is my pineapple.
A few words for this Wordless Wednesday. . .
I’m tired of Matthew and he hasn’t even arrived yet. For a week, the local news in South Florida has kept updated on the storm’s track — and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
Hurricane Matthew is my first hurricane in my new home and garden.
A few words: I love to photograph plants when they’re backlit by the sun. The illumination gives a whole new appearance to the leaf or flower.
One recent afternoon, as I was leaving the house, I thought I saw a flame from the corner of my eye. When I turned to look, it was a caladium leaf.