Maybe it was that college job taking care of plants in malls, banks, and businesses for my sister’s company that put me off house plants forever, or maybe the poor rosemary was just too close to the floor vent. The Venus flytrap, sad to report, also bit the dust. A tropical plant on a windowsill in a bloody cold Chicago winter is bound to suffer. Or maybe I just overwatered it. The postmortem was skipped.
My mom and sisters have gorgeous plants inside. Mine die. Well, the non-succulents die. So far we are keeping alive a few small jades, a zygocactus, some hens & chicks I didn’t want to unpot, and one surprisingly tough eyelash begonia. All brought from NY, and all that would fit in the car. I owe them that.
is the question of a fool,” says the song.
“Better not to stop and ask. Just take up your tool!”*
These garlic bulbs are from my friend’s garden, grown in the plot next to ours in the community patch. I gave her some of our garlic to plant in our first Chicago fall, 2011, brought from Slaterville. At the time I had nowhere to plant it. I’d carefully marked the varieties when I’d planted them, labeled the drying plants, and kept them separate even for the move. Then when there was no ground for them to go into, they just came into the kitchen, jumbled together. Soon after that, we found some of them a garden. There’s no telling if these bulbs are New York’s progeny, but I like to think so. And I need the memory. Learning about growing garlic, planting it, tending it, photographing it, cutting and eating scapes, and finally digging huge hard neck bulbs in late summer has brought me more joy than I can relate on a page.
Time to plant again.
*I’d tell you the artist, but can’t find it. Remembered from an African record heard lifetimes ago.
Thanks, Ms. Oliver.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
By Mary Oliver
More poems here
And let me listen to Laura Mvula channel Nina Simone