Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bachelorhood and dying plants

Well, I'm wrapping up a three-day unfortunate re-experience of my days of singledom: Ashley flew back to Athens this weekend for a wedding (hi, the new Mr. & Mrs. Odum), leaving me in Miami to fend for myself. ...which means I spent the weekend eating crap food, watching MST3K and giving the dogs a bath. What can I say? I'm a mad par-tay animal, yo.

Among the few things I accomplished of any sustained value this weekend was trying to breathe life into a dying peace lilly. About four years ago when my grandfather died, I inherited a plant from the funeral -- a huge honking peace lilly, that was too big and cumbersome for my mom to take care of. Plus, I have this unnatural ability to...I don't know...connect with plants. I tend to have the things not die on me, unlike other members of my family which shall remain nameless. Anyway, this thing has been with me since Jay's funeral, and has gone through about nine different pots because it keeps getting bigger and bigger. I guess I must be doing something right, otherwise it'd have been mulched about two years ago.

When Ashley and I moved from Athens to Miami, we took the plant with us in the backseat of my Jetta, because the moving company has some policy about not transporting any live plants (or pets, I guess -- although I can't imagine what damage Maggie & Cricket could have done to an 18-wheeler). Unfortunately, our carrying the plant in my car was going to be a problem, because Maggie loves the peace lilly. "Loves," as in "loves to snack on the thing." I can't begin to explain the number of times I'd come home from work at UGA only to find this green blob of regurgitated plant matter on my carpet. So, since twelve hours of her retching in the backseat of my car did not sound appealing, we decided to cover the plant with a tarp.

...some of you see where this is going already, don't you?

So, we arrive in Miami after 24 hours of travel time, and after unloading our luggage, trash and other personal items from the car, I pull out the plant and unwrap it.

And the sight kills me: the leaves were all brown and withered, and it looked like it was dying on the spot in front of me.

I was heartbroken. Not only was this plant something that I'd spent years nurturing and pruning to make sure it stayed healthy, it was a tie to my family, a physical link to my family of birth that was now a thousand-plus miles away. Couple this with the fact it was from my grandfather's funeral and therefore beyond price to me...I was devastated. Morose. I wanted to just chunk the thing and -- I don't know -- be pissy and moan about it all the time.

But, God stayed my hand. God (using Ashley as the voice of reason) kept me from throwing this thing away. I took it inside and placed it in the tub of the guest bathroom, and I started watering it. I made sure that it stayed in a place where the temperature could be regulated, where it wouldn't get too much sun, where it could just wait. And heal.

And begin to heal it has: this weekend, I took it outside to prune away all the dead leaves. See, I wanted to let it just rest, to let the plant's natural desire to grow -- its survival instinct -- remain intact. To give it a chance to show its strength, where it could come back from the almost-dead. And as I began to prune away the dead leaves and the icky brown parts...I noticed new growth already coming up. Several new leaves were already starting to grow, and as of this afternoon, there are about 5-6 new leaves that are starting to unfurl. Oh, to be sure, it look a wreck, but that's alright: the plant is living, and now that the dead parts of it have been pruned away, the living, breathing parts (refer back to 7th grade science class, kids) can begin to grow strong again, and thrive. Flourish. And by virtue of the fact that in a few HOURS new growth was staring to show already...I got faith in this little thing. I think it'll make it.


Those of you who know me know that I pretty much live, breathe, eat and drink allegories. Songs bug me unless they tell a story. TV shows that have multi-layered contextual meaning make me want to dance (LOST, anyone?). Books that I have to re-read because they contain so MUCH information in them that I can't take it all in at once have permanent places on my bookshelves.

So, it should come as no great surprise that while I was outside, sweating in the Miami sun, working over this plant that many other people might've just gotten rid of, God was speaking to me. Beyond the Biblical-parable-comparisons evident in the whole lost sheep/pearl of great price comparisons. Beyond the whole survival, new growth, prune away the old, let the plant lie fallow while it heals itself and while nature (which, by the way, God invented, in case you've forgotten) runs it course...

I am that plant.

God is the gardener.

What ALL does that mean? I don't know.

But I think I need to just start growing again. And as the journey towards rebirth continues, I think that I'll enjoy finding out what all it entails.

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