There is a chill to the evening, a damp chill. It is autumn, my absolute favorite season. And it is evening, my favorite time of day. Evening is coffee and teechino, playing and lounging outside, dinner and tidying, bedtime routines, and then, a few blessed hours to myself. I used to spend this time painting, and I have an arsenal of canvases as a result of 10 years’ worth of burning the midnight oil with a brush in one hand and a palette in the other. I wanted different things back then, things I accomplished in small and great quantities, things that I no longer desire to accomplish now. It was a beautiful phase of life, but a phase I feel is through. Now, most evenings find me knitting, reading, or chatting with a friend on the phone. This particular evening, however, my alone time finds me outside in the dark, fooling around with seeds and soil on the patio.
I have a birthday coming up; I will be 39. I have never given a whit about age, be it mine or someone else’s. I only know that birthdays are a special time, and I look forward to mine as much as a child might. It is part of the reason I love autumn, actually…I know with it comes my special day. On the patio tonight, I spoon soil into small starter pots and add seeds. It feels odd to do this while the chill of winter hovers, but I am excited. For the the first time in my life, I’ll have a fall garden. On the patio sits a greenhouse, ready to hold the small pots and protect the young seedlings until they can be put into the ground. I assembled it Sunday and am quite pleased to be putting it to use tonight. As my birthday approaches, I'm always reflective about life. Seeds are so symbolic, the act of planting a thing so magical.
It is late to be starting these seeds, I know, but I’m always late. My family says its part of my M.O., which isn’t entirely true; at least it’s not intentional. But it seems to be who I am, the person who is always be one step behind in getting a thing done. I tell myself it is because I am doing so much, and that appeases my ego, but truth is I do no more than anyone else. I just tell myself I do for the same reason everyone tells themselves they are 'so busy'... no one wants to think they are always running one step behind because they're inept at being punctual. No one wants the image in their head of themselves always running, period, be it away from something or towards something. It is one thing to strive for a thing; it is another to be always running. Nevertheless, it seems I am always running behind, no matter what the event. I make it to work on time only with great effort, even though I wake up 2.5 hours before I need to be there.
Being late, running behind, how I need to improve my punctuality...this on my mind when noticed the Spider Lily plant, stuck in a dim corner under the potting table, it’s tall stalk now pale and withering. I look away; I’ve mixed feelings about this plant. I was happy when I potted the bulb, and happy when its first green shoot sprouted up from the dirt…but now the sight of it leaves me feeling gutted. I’m a pretty laid back person, not prone to create or participate in drama. For this reason, I never quite know how to react when it explodes into my life. Weeks ago, reeling from the aftermath of events I will never understand, I pushed the pot holding the lily under the table. It is one thing to strive, it is another to run, and it is something all together different to simply push a thing away. Still, I am rarely confrontational, especially with myself and my own feelings. I hid the plant, and my feelings, away...
But here's a fact: a growing thing left untended dies, and I am too much of a hippie tree hugger to allow any living thing to simply die if I can help it to live. I want to go back inside and forget the plant, but the pitiful sight of it now, compared to how it looked mid-summer, is too much. I pull the pot out and give the lily some needed attention. I prune leaves from its dead stalk and add water. Perhaps I am not too late…that would be a first for me, I think.
It’s a big pot, for I was under the impression it would be a big plant, and with the new additions of the patio greenhouse and potting table, there seems to be no proper place for it now.Then it occurs to me to just dig out the bulb and put it into the ground. But if I do that, then when I leave this place, I won’t be able to take it with me. But do I really want to take it with me? Is it that important if I shoved it under a table?
And so, here I am, outside alone on a rainy night, spade in hand, trying to decide how important a plant is to me…a plant I already hid from sight and allowed to nearly die because it made me sad when I looked at it. Why save it now, only to have it bloom in spring and make me sad again?
I’ll celebrate my birthday this year by running into the sea during the early morning hours. I’ve always wanted to do this. I’ve always wanted to do many things I’ve not yet done. Late, always late...still it is better to run into the sea at 39 than it is not to do it all. But I’ve had a hell of a start to my birthday week and the sight of the lily has done nothing to appease my mood. I waited months for this flower to bloom, and perhaps it would have, had it not been shoved aside and neglected. Now, I’m outside in the damp darkness trying to save it, for suddenly it is of tremendous importance to me that this flower lives. And I don’t know why. Given the bizarre events I associate with it, I don’t think even the most radical environmentalist would blame me for tossing the bloody thing into the compost heap and being done with the entire production.
But I can’t, because I still remember when it was given to me. I still remember how I felt, how I rushed home to plant it, what a special, wonderful gift it was, at least to me. And soon I will leave this place; I’ve began already a course of action that will surely result in the life change that I am seeking. I was born here, in this place, but I seek now a different home. I seek a different life, a life that will take me far from this potted lily on a painted patio in a small Southern town in a state I returned to but never intended to stay in.
In these little flashing moments of clarity, it occurs to me that it is inumerable, all the things we leave behind when we move on.
It also occurs to me that this flower should be transplanted in spring, not fall, and that I have not, for a long time, thought about the day it was given to me, and I certainly would prefer not to think about it now. I have meetings to plan for, articles to write, bills to pay, projects to finish, laundry to fold, emails to write, the list goes on. I shouldn't be out here, letting my mind wander this way. So I shove the pot back under the table and come inside.
When spring comes, I’ll plant the bulb in the ground where the sun will shine on it for hours, near a patch of daylilies that flourish each season. Maybe it will blend in with them, but I doubt it. It is something rare and different, and it will no doubt stand out against the sea of carbon copies that surround it. The next person to live in this place will surely notice it one day, wonder what it is and how it came to be there, just as I once wondered about a small bed of unusual succulents that thrived in an odd spot in the yard of a house I rented years ago. I tried to take one with me when I moved, for I’d grown rather fond of them, but it died a few weeks later, having not adapted easily to being potted after years of growing free.
It was my fault entirely.
I should have known that for some things, roots go deep. Still I will plant the bulb and hope the spider lily will be okay. I hope that it will always stand out from the sea of carbon copies that surround it. I hope it will grow and grow and grow, never allowing itself to be confined, never forgetting it is a transplant here, not meant to blend in, and that is a glorious thing. I hope the daylily roots won't strangle the life out of it, as things planted in too close of proximity will often do to one another.
But most of all, I hope it blooms...I really, really hope it blooms, even if I'm not around to see it.