I’ve been strolling around my neighborhood a lot in this lovely May weather. I watched as bare ground erupted into lush gardens, spring flowers opened up, color blossomed in so many places. In this city of concrete and asphalt, so much springs to life.
It’s been an odd week, too. I keep finding trashed plants. The first was a snake plant, dumped out of it’s pot and left beside a trash bin. It looked like the people in the house there had moved — lots of odds and ends in the bins. But why dump the plant? Why not leave it in the pot for sidewalk scavengers? I know snake plants are pretty hearty. The corms on these were in tact, so I brought them home, trimmed off the dead leaves, and potted the healthy part, watered them and set them on the porch with the hope they’d continue to grow.
Another day, I passed by a business with two planters on the side of it’s windowless wall that had been totally trashed — filled with fast food containers, vodka bottles, wrappers, and surprising little soil. Under this trash volcano, I saw hosta leaves poking out. They were still fresh and green so I dug down and found several hostas and begonias, roots caked in dirt, but torn from whatever soil they were planted in. It was obviously the doing of some maladjusted person. I collected the plants, and again, brought them home to give them a chance to grow.
It has all the making of verdant spring for me. Then yesterday, I got news that the sister of a dear friend of mine had died. She was only 56. She had MS, and she accidentally overdosed on medications. A little life ended too soon.
I’ve lost a brother. He was alienated from his family, from me, by his mental illness of paranoid schizophrenia. My grief was bound in a sense of relief that he would not suffer anymore, but I mourned the life he never had. I made a gauzy shroud and planted him in my heart where the grief blooms, then goes dormant, then flowers again — different colors, different thorns, different ways that both nourish and deplete my soul.
After receiving the news of my friend’s sister leaving the planet, I went for a stroll through the neighborhood. Where I live now is only a few blocks from the house where I raised my children. I’ve lived in midtown most of my life, a wealth of stories populate all the streets and avenues I wander through.
There’s a little park adjacent to a school across the street from me. They have huge planters arranged in a circle with stone benches and a small altar for St. Mary, because it used to be a Catholic school.
I looked at the plants the students had started growing — lettuce, herbs, kale. There was a cluster of blue cornflowers growing in one.
As I made the circle around the garden, I found another cluster of cornflowers, but they had been cut down and thrown on the ground. The flowers were still fresh, but they were dying, leaves drooping, stems softening. I used my phone internet to see if there was any way to root them from the stems, to rescue them, to bring them back to life. But they can’t be propagated that way. They were dead.
Why would they cut them down? Why this need to tear out these flowering lives? I suppose they want to plant something new. Or maybe it was just an act of malice. I’ll never know. So much I’ll never know or understand.
I broke off some of the flowers and arranged them on the stone bench. I took a picture. Then left them to return to dust, to nourish the soil.
And I came home and grieved for all that we suffer in life, and how hard it is to lose friends and family to death, even though we know it’s inevitable, especially as I age. All life’s grief wakes back up and pricks the soul so the new grief can flow in, grow in, become part of neighborhood.
I had been thinking of the resurrection of practically everything before I heard of this death, and as I process this latest sad news, I have let grief resurrect. I sit with it on my porch in my wheelchair, on my little patch of earth, where all around me things are growing for me to witness, then watch as they go dormant, or die. I wait til something new emerges; I pay attention, and try to keep my heart open to it all.
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