The succulent shoots which I brought home from a garage sale have begun to thrive.
When I got them, I believed them to be actual plants, with strong roots in the black soil. While I was arranging them on my deck rail, I knocked one of them over. Dirt spilled onto the wood of the porch. The cutting itself drifted to the ground. Mystified, I gently pulled at the three others, discovering that they, too, had merely been stuck into coffee cups full of earth, probably minutes before I bought them.
I scooped the dirt back into the mug and buried the end of the little cactus stem.
Since then I’ve been watering these plants and wondering if they’ll survive. I read about growing succulents from cuttings on site after site, a desperate foster mother racing against time and the unseen voice of judgment. New leaves take the place of the old, which will shrivel and fall away as they provide nourishment. I expect something similar caused my teeth to crack while I nursed my son.
In the mornings I stand over my makeshift garden, straining to see signs of growth. The rising song of the birds distracts me though. I move to the back railing and watch the light dance over the meadow. The branches of the willows hang low, heavy with their summer frocks. But I shudder. I clutch my shawl to my arms. Night’s chill lingers long enough to keep me humble.
I spent a lot of time today straightening my shelves and my cupboards. My neighbor came over and put clean sheets on the guest bed in the far loft. I re-folded the towels, crisply, edge to edge; and organized the pantry. I spent a long minute looking at a piece of art that I have not yet hung, but in the end I put it back into storage. I can’t decide if it suits me anymore. Just before sunset, I took a cup of tea out to my rocking chair and sat motionless for a long time. As the last light faded, one of the cacti raised its head to the west. I swear that I could see it preening.
It’s the first day of the fifty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
You have rented an apartment. You come to this enclosure with physical relief, your heavy body climbing the stairs in the dark, the hall bulb burned out, the landlord of Greek extraction and possibly a fatalist. In the apartment leaning against one wall, your daughter’s painting of a large frilled cabbage against a dark sky with pinpoints of stars. The eager vegetable, opening itself as if to eat the air, or speak in cabbage language of the meanings within meanings; while the points of stars hide their massive violence in the dark upper half of the painting. You can live with this.