Nature Teaches

Amaryllis Nagano
January, 2018

Every December, as the winter Solstice nears and daylight recedes too early into darkness, I search my garden catalogue for the perfect balm: an amaryllis bulb. I pour over amaryllis flowers in bloom—vivid red, lush white, soft peach, striated cherry. Each one is regal on its tall stem. Each one beckons: choose me.

I began the ritual decades ago when my mother was alive, a widow in winter, struggling with children and grandchildren grown, a husband buried. The first time I brought Mom a potted bulb, she was intrigued. Mom listened intently as I explained the importance of bright light and careful watering to bring the plant to bloom. The table by the picture window where she sat to watch the birds at the feeder was perfect.

I recall the phone calls, the delight in her voice, as she described the two graceful green points peaking from the soil, their bulging growth, their transformation on stalks into eight perfect blooms. By mid-March, the blooms died off and long arching leaves rose from the base of the stems, lifting Mom through to the end of winter.

She and I never did take the step to sink the leafy pot into the spring soil, to let it thrive in the summer months and re-build its bulb. The extra chore, to return in the fall at the exact right time, to lift the bulb, repot, set it into a cool place to rest (but to make certain it did not dry out entirely), seemed too challenging.

Since Mom’s death in 1994, I have continued to choose a new amaryllis every December. Coming onto a full year of Trump, I shied away from the very bright reds. They seemed too celebratory, too brilliant for my heart. Drawn to the lime green, there was just the one, I was too close to the sadness of the season. Softness in color, some green, some white, mostly blush, seemed right. I ordered the Amaryllis Nagano.

As I write, the Nagano, now in full bloom, sits on a wide bookcase ledge facing a south picture window. Within days of arriving, I hand mixed moistened soil in a wide vat, packed it into the base of a pot, set the bulb and fanned the roots on top, layering the soil just below the neck of the bulb.

Perhaps, it was my anticipation, how much in this fitful, unpredictable political and environmental climate, I needed a sign that growth was possible. In six days, the green tips emerged. Thankfully, I have a little instrument that measures wet and dry and protects me from over watering and causing rot. Like Mom, I feel delight as each bloom opens and reveals its striated color and green throat. Like Mom, I am sad as each blossom fades and dies off.

Upon seeing the plant in bloom, a gardening friend asked if I were going to rebuild the bulb. I’m grateful for her question. It seemed apt as the women’s movement grows, the metaphor of embracing and taking on the more complex task of rebuilding and cultivating possibility for sustained growth.


16 thoughts on “Nature Teaches

  1. Hy Kempler

    Whew! A beautiful picture.The red so vivacious.
    Faye I like the way you drew on memories of your Mom and concluded with sustaining the women’s movement. yes gotta keep on replanting the bulbs. True of climate change movement ss well. Grateful that that we have the means and desire to do those.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Hy, Thanks so much for affirming my intentions with this post. I had no idea when I started that my conversation about rebuilding the bulb would fan out into climate change or the women’s movement. That’s the fun of writing an essay. You often end up in a surprising and more grounding place!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Marisa, Thanks! I have a strong intention right now. Time will tell how the bulb will farewell all summer and into through its “quiet” period.

  2. Rosemary Booth

    Here’s an essay that seems to unfold like the plant it describes. I like the calm opening, the way the first bloom–of her mother’s amaryllis–emerges slowing, only after patient watering, and waiting. The welcome surprise is the writer’s pursuit of a second bloom–one from her own careful choice and cultivation of the “right” amaryllis in a season also of loss, and the joy it conveys.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Yes, on another level, there is the question of sustaining joy. Perhaps, with the intention of another season, one can hold it. Time will tell, my friend.

  3. Carol Steinman

    I so enjoyed this multidimensional emotional journey between you, your bulbs /plants, your mom, the political climate. I especially loved your last line “It seemed apt as the women’s movement grows, the metaphor of embracing and taking on the more complex task of rebuilding and cultivating possibility for sustained growth”… says it all. Thanks for sharing that with all of us.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Carol, thanks for your affirming post. I was pleased when that last line came to me.

  4. sheila kempler

    A blooming beautiful flowering bulb as a reminder of renewal that revives us in less than
    uplifting times. Great choice to Remind and focus us on the wonders of our natural world.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Sheila, thanks for your comment. I imagine you are enjoying many blooms in sunny Sanibel.

  5. Julie Sharpless Kessler

    Faye, my intention was to express admiration for your piece, and be specific about it. Others here have done that so well, and with my full agreement, that I’ll shamelessly turn this to myself. I dearly love my extensive deck garden. Like you, I monitor my flowers, veggies, and herbs closely and revel in each sign of their growth. I also mourn their passing in late fall … and seem to mourn the more at those times the loss of loved ones. My family is gone, two dear friends gone, and so on — losses known by so many here, I imagine. I’m not alone; my devoted husband is here and I’m lucky to have a bunch of wonderful in-laws. But we dames d’un certain age know that loss is loss, no matter how many may be around us. I am quite uplifted by your ritual of the amaryllis, and intend to copy it at my home. Ever so glad you posted this writing.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Hello Julie, I’m so pleased to hear from you and to connect to a sister “dame d’un certain age,” in spirit and engagement with hands-on gardening. May you take joy in the selection and care of your amaryllis. I’m debating about the possibility of another given that my glorious blush one is already on the wain.

  6. Monika Kalina

    Thank you so much Faye for this transporting blog. The poetry, elegance and economy of your description not only touched me deeply, but also gave me inspiration and hope for a healing through life project at home. Thank you so much!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Monika, welcome to my blog. I so appreciate your comment and am especially moved that my words inspire you to embark on a healing project at home. May your project bring you what you need.

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