Tuesday, February 5, 2019

life in leaves

when my brother died, his house smelled of cigarettes, old beer and his particular body odor--which always struck me as containing hints of mustard and bologna.  his was a really sad ending.  tragic, even, if tragedy is defined by the main character's downfall caused by his own attempt at virtue.  but that's a story for another day.  today, i want to talk about the one plant he had living with him in his house.  i can't remember why i took it, but it was still in its container from the nursery when he died.  an indoor plant with deep green, fan-like leaves that could look prehistoric in the right setting.  however little my brother cared for himself or for others, he remembered to water this plant.  he kept it alive.  and i wanted to keep it alive, too.

it moved to our house, but stayed in its nursery container for probably a year, simultaneously ignored and pitied.  then, on a whim, i decided to give it a proper pot.  i transplanted it, touching its roots carefully, wondering what this living creature knew of life.

and then we went on, as did it.  growing, dying, living.  it became a part of the background.  a quiet observer.  now it's moved with us.  survived the brutal elimination process that other items have not.  why?  it feels necessary.  it feels like a continuation.  its organic memory might have memory and it might not.  but my brother breathed oxygen created by this plant.  likewise, his waste material--every heavy sigh, drunken snore, angry exhale--was pulled in by this plant and cherished, turned into something lovely.

Monday, January 21, 2019


to take the unusual sighting of an owl on an evening walk as confirmation that you should change your life seems like a stretch, maybe.  but if you'd seen that owl!  the way his head spun to look right at us, his enormous wingspan dwarfing the stop sign he'd landed upon.  the feathers made a sound as he adjusted them that was akin to dragging heavy coats across an empty floor.  as i looked into his eyes, the energy there reminded me of every person and creature i've loved and lost.  could it be that he was visiting from across time and space?  i guess it doesn't really matter.  i've never been much of a science fiction buff, but on the exact day that we decided to take a leap of faith into a far simpler life by buying an ugly little house, less than half the size of our current one and making a grand downsize in stuff and a big upsize in peace is the one and only day i've seen an owl in the wild.  as a bit of history:  my grandfather gave to my mother a golden owl brooch on the day she married my father.  he said it was to represent what a wise choice she'd made.  when told that story as a child, fingering the heavy gold of the bird, i wholeheartedly believed in symbols.  i believed in talismans.  and i definitely believed in the wisdom of owls.  not so much has changed.