Friday, March 21, 2008

The Patio, 1

I'm working on something different. - W

I choose to sit here because I need to make my peace with this spot, embrace it as home. I have always loved the early morning, and the morning works for the patio. No matter the season, the morning shade keeps our patio cool and serene. I can hear different birds chirping, each to its own tempo. The neighbors go about their errands, grousing loudly at each other in Spanish, efficiently, directly, but not angrily. The anger and exasperation usually comes later in the day. But the mornings have a calmness that we all seem to share a respect for.

A dog shakes, jingling his collar. How could we forget about him? Even he seems to be lazily enjoying his morning.

The patio has a concrete pad, and beyond that another five feet in three directions, covered with bark. Along the periphery, along the fence, we have plants planted. Jan’s, which I haven’t identified, are in the ground, first in view out the patio door. Mine, in pots, a hodge-podge of displaced Hawaiian natives and miniature roses. There’s new growth breaking through on everything. The prospect of continued growth and promise of blooms later in the summer. What will it take to get the ginger to bloom?

The dog runs across his patio, alerted to a large truck, sliding its doors open for a delivery. I hear Mexican music playing. There’s something remotely soothing about it, unsynthesized ballads, mariachi.

I try to make peace. Wednesdays I go to yoga. I like to exercise in the mornings, when I can control the pace of my activity, and not be pummeled by the noises and impatience of people all insisting on their own agenda. The yoga comes at a good time in the week for me, in between the two days that I teach late into the night. Yoga gets me off to an easy, balanced start, and it’s a calm that’s hard to shake in favor of work and active problem-solving responsibilities. I need to associate the patio with this kind of calm and nourishment.

I left a patio far closer to the coast, overlooking large fields and open parks. This patio has always felt small, boxed in, like it yearns to be more. The neighbor opens her window upstairs and peers down across the walkway, glancing into our space, as we do when we’re upstairs. It’s never felt completely safe, completely quiet or secluded; never completely like home. I can continue to resist the patio or come to accept it and nurture it. There are, after all, new buds and sprouts to take care of, if we want to ensure continued growth and flowers in a few months.

Alto wind chimes next door start to keep time to the Mexican radio. You can hear the rustle of the breeze in the trees through the rest of the walkway, and it finally reaches our patio, causing the plants to sway back and forth.

I hear a lawnmower. Wednesdays, the gardening crew comes.

I know it’s approaching noon, but the sun hasn’t reached the peak of its arc, so we can all linger in the relative calm. I find myself unable to resist the temptation of the calmness of the morning, the coolness of the concrete under my feet.

The plants are all sturdy, but are a bit heavy with worn, brown leaves. The leaves of Jan’s plants, so broad, show the strain of the changing season and warming days. I find myself making check-lists: I need to water the plants more often, trim back the old growth, repot my plants, give them more room to grow. I see cobwebs in the corners of the fences, mud splatters, little burrows where the neighbor’s cat comes in and out. I hear someone else watering their garden on the other side of two wooden fences. The weeds are feeling hopeful, sending up new sprouts. Wispy clouds pass by. Even the sky is light in its blueness; morning not ready to yield to the staggering heat and blinding brightness of the midday sun.

My mind pauses and I start to become very aware of how it has lead me to see the plants as representations of our lives. The permanence of Jan’s plants here and the implied impermanence of mine in their pots. Where do they really belong? Against the south fence? Or the North fence? I just don't know. I haven't taken the time to figure it out. It’d be great to set them in soil and allow them to take root, but I can’t be certain that they’ll flourish, stay permanently, no better than I can know for certain how well I can flourish here. Jan’s been here for almost 20 years and has roots. Even though he’d like to move and is tired of the lack of space to breathe, he is sturdy and strong and confident in this life here. Me, I’m not quite so sure. What old growth do I still need to prune off to let the air of this space breathe around and through me?

I look over and sigh. The ginger has been the tender jewel of the bunch; faithfully growing soft green leaves, but never flowering, secretly keeping the heady sweet blossoms to itself, curled tightly, codes hidden somewhere deep in its miniscule cells, waiting, waiting, waiting.

The gardener starts his mower and the rumbling sound of industry and work has finally reached out walkway. I need to finish my daydreaming and my coffee and get started with my day as well.

What will it take for the ginger to bloom?


Anonymous said...

Wow, this entry really got to my heart Wendee. If there is anything that I have learned in my 44 years it is that absolutely nothing is permanent and once we embrace that truth we can deeply live in the moment, for that is all that we really have.

Dare to take your plants out of their pots and allow them to reach down into the fertile soil of your life and enjoy the fruit, each and every blossom as the precious and fleeting gift that it is.

You know, as the avid gardener that I am, I know that sometimes the best thing I can do for my potted plants is to unpot them, cut back a third of their root system that has wound around and around in the pot in dizzying circles trying to seek out the nutrients it needs, and then set that plant in new and fertile soil. At first it is a shock to the plant. Taking it to the point of death is what it takes to give it new and abundant life.

As for your ginger plant... I am not sure because we can't grow ginger here, but perhaps it is like other plants in that it needs a lover... another plant of its species. There are both male and female plants in the plant world. Bleeding Hearts are one, so is rhubarb. Or it could need another plant to cross pollinate with.

Hugs and bouquets,

Wendee said...

Thanks, Roma. I'm getting back to working on the plants, and know what I need to do.
I'm doing research on the gingers and have a good idea of what to help them out. I also understand that they take time to blossom - maybe 2 yrs, so maybe this year ... [sigh]

Rosa Say said...

What thoughtful writing this is Wendee, so generous in your willingness to be vulnerable and model some exceptional self-coaching for us! I have the wonderful pleasure of arriving here at this posting because of your Flickr picture: Your yellow ginger (and my favorite of all the ginger varieties) has bloomed!

Having come to know you fairly recently, I would have guessed that you have too, for you bring such joy to me in our newly growing friendship.

I read this on a Sunday morning during a time of my own pensive thoughts, and you coach me well, to be comfortable and make peace with my moods, allowing them to teach me. Mahalo nui loa Wendee,
Aloha kaua e,
~ Rosa