Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Here We Are

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.

Ten years later, here we are . . . again . . . and sadly, we are all too familiar with the routine from the people who are actually in a position to do something but who openly choose not to.

I’ve heard many people say they have no words to describe what is a regular occurrence in this country. Well, I have words — plenty of them, as you can only imagine.

The nation and families are still mourning the victims of the Buffalo, NY, supermarket shooting, and here we are again — mourning the murder of children in school. On top of this are the victims of gun violence who don’t make the news, the ones who are killed on a daily and nightly basis, the ones who don’t get their own theme music on the news and hashtag-insert location-strong paraphernalia.

Thoughts and prayers aren’t working. We all know it. It’s said so often — a throwaway line — that the phrase is watered down, a cliche. We need action and policy and change . . . but where to begin?

I’m not an expert on policy and law, but . . . How about creating a national gun policy? How about closing gun ownership loopholes? How about reining in gun shows and online purchases of ammo and gear? How about getting lobbyists and corporate money out of politics? How about holding our elected officials accountable and voting them out for failing to protect our collective right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? (Note: I haven’t mentioned one thing about taking away Second Amendment rights.)

I don’t want to be (nor do I want you to be) a sitting duck in a shooting arcade . . . or a church, supermarket, school, movie theater, cafeteria, military base — the list goes on.

I also don’t want us to be numb. When future shootings happen — and they wilI, perhaps tomorrow, maybe next week — I don’t want us to shrug and say, “What can you do? It happens.” That’s the equivalent of stepping over the bodies and the carnage to get on with our own lives.

We cannot and should not get on with our lives when so many — too  many — will never be able to.

When I worked in a school, we practiced regular lockdown drills and instructions on what to do in the event of an active shooter in the building. Close and lock the door, shut off the lights, pull down the window shades, help students make a barricade against the door, huddle with the students in a corner. (Note: Books about two mommies, two daddies, addressing different family structures, and using the word “gay” does not cause trauma in children. Witnessing the shooting deaths of their friends and teachers, and then stepping over their bodies, does.)

When I worked in the nursery of a national box store, employees received regular training on what to do in case of an active shooter. These are lessons I carry with me whenever I’m anywhere — be aware of the exits so I can run to safety; if I’m trapped, find a safe hiding place; if my safe place is in danger, what can I use to defend myself and fight back.

This is not a normal way to live. This should never be a normal way to live. Yet, here we are.

I’m sorry for this rant, but I’m tired. We’re all tired. I’m tired of writing letters to and calling my senators, representatives, and governor. I’m tired of their canned responses and carefully crafted words and their inability and/or unwillingness to actually do what they were elected to do. I’m tired of them doing whatever the highest donors request. I’m tired of them focusing on divisive politics, while ignoring the very real-life problems that are impacting all of us every single day. (Note: I’m also tired that taking away a woman’s health choice has a higher priority than the massacre of living, breathing children.)

We need each other. We need each other. We need each other — because there may/will come a day when we find ourselves standing near one another at restaurant or in a mall, when a gunman walks in and starts shooting. When this happens, we’re going to look at one another, grab one another’s hand, and run to safety or find a hiding place until law enforcement arrives. If the shooter enters our hiding place, we are going to fight back . . . together.

No offense, but this is not how I want to meet you. There are so many other, more pleasant ways I’d like to meet you . . . in your garden or a nursery, at a flower show or botanical garden, here in the blogging world or there on the street.

Again, I apologize for the rant and for sounding defeatist and cynical — but I’m disgusted. I’m sad. I’m angry.

How much longer do we ignore the idea that we are all expendable, that we are collateral damage so politicians can continue to fund their campaigns with dollars from the gun lobby? How many more people have to die? How many more times do we experience a tragedy and offer the same do-nothing response? If that’s not an idiocracy, I don’t know what is.

So, here we are. Again.

Please, keep yourselves and your loved ones safe — and please vote. It’s the only weapon we have.

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Holding On

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.

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Small Packages & Good Things

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:

I opened the package and there was the most recent addition to her Seven Deadly Veils series, Veil of Orion, a story of enduring love and the forces trying to tear it apart. There was also a note.

Hello Kevin,

 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:

Wordless Wednesday: Waiting For Matthew

Hurricane Matthew

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.

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