Hope from a flower

There are times where I sit at my computer or before a blank piece of paper to write something and nothing happens. Today was such a day. My mind draws a blank. I come up empty. After a half hour of letting my mind wander from here to nowhere, I give up and return to doing what I was before.

When that happens I feel disappointed. I walk around the house wondering why my life is not more interesting. I go to the fridge, open the door, and ask the milk and juice cartons why I’m not like the Instagram or Facebook A-listers who jet-set to Thailand, Timbuktu, or Tokyo to post photos of themselves at ancient temples, eating deep-fried crickets from a street vendor, or thumb-upping next to a world-class martial arts trainer. In the bathroom, I look at myself in the mirror, try the best duck-lip face so I can selfie myself, but the resutls looks more like a mugshot than a come-hither look.

While I make myself a cup of tea, I sigh and ponder: “Face it. You’re not glam. What have you done that’s so interesting that you have to share with the world?”

Most of the time I come up empty. My life is not glam, I admit. I’m stuck learning and memorizing 240 herbs and 160 herbal formulas for an exam I should have taken a year ago that I keep postponing because there’s just so much to remember. When you’re a man of a certain age, things don’t come as easily as they used to, and the paper trail of Post-it notes reminding me to keep track of, or do something about it, keeps getting longer and longer.

When the tea’s ready, I sit outside and contemplate a garden that has more weeds than actual grass and a few remaining trees struggling to stay alive. Not glam at all, I think. Nothing to share.

I turn my gaze to the small ceramic pot that sits on the edge of the deck, and there I find what’s left of an old, forgotten plant my sister gave my mother years ago. At one time, the plant was full of leaves and pink flowers that delighted everyone who saw it. But over time, the plant withered and wilted and now looks more like an ancient stump of wood someone stuck in the planter as if making a poor joke. Over time, the plant has rotted from the inside out, and now has a hole on the center from which you can see bugs and ants that have chosen to make a home for themselves in the plant’s interior.

For some unknown reason, the half of the plant that is still alive hangs on and sprouts leaves at least once each season. At other times, it is just a stump giving no indication that life remains within. Every time I’m ready to give up the plant for dead, and want to toss it out with the garbage, I notice a new leaf breaking free from the old bark and a few weeks later the plant is green again. It’s a game we play, I guess, or one the plant plays with me. I fall for the joke every time.

This morning, I woke up with every intention to write something clever for the blog. I was ready to sit down and write about my latest round with the witch-doctor; or how we had to cut and dig a hole in the living room to access a plumbing pipe that had rotted and was backing up sewage; or how my nephew wants to dress up for his prom as the Penguin from the television show Gotham (thank goodness he has a fairy god-father to keep him from such errors!).

But when I sat at my computer, I drew a blank. Every sentence I wrote lacked cadence and gravity. No two words I put next to each other made sense. So before I spent the next half-hour berating myself, I walked to the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea so I could drink it outside.

When I turned to the potted stump, I noticed a brand new flower from the tallest branch of the living part of the stump. A pretty little thing it was! White, with touches of pink around the petals’ edges that spilled to a yellow center where a bee buzzed with delight. I had to smile and thank the stump for it’s latest joke.

Neither I nor the half-dead plant are glam. In fact, most people would take a look and dismiss us as they walk by and past us. Fewer still would give us a second glance. But anyone with enough patience, and anticipating a good joke, would certainly sit idly by, enjoying a nice cup of tea, and wait for the right moment for us to make our move. I guess I don’t have to be an A-lister, a jet-setter, or a celebrity to make a statement. I only have to wait for the right moment, and the right person, to show my real colors to and make an ordinary moment a memorable one.

The Practice of Contemplative Photography.