What this snapdragon has shown me this winter
evening meditation, 02.20.17, 11/30
This picture shows probably a little more than I’d like about our life right now: windows that are way too dirty, for one, and imperfect, sometimes ignored produce ripening on the sill.
But I want to tell you about these snapdragons.
These flowers have been in my kitchen window since early October of 2016. Stella, who was three then, cut them for me. They were the only ones left in the garden, having survived the fall frost, and they were a beautiful deep fuscia. The blooms lasted about as long as they usually do indoors, a few days, maybe a week. They dried and faded. I left them there because I got busy, and like with so many things (see also: windows), I would pass by them and think, Oh yeah, I need to toss those and clean the bottle — and then the phone would ring, or I’d need to make lunch or meet a deadline, or I’d get distracted watching squirrels romping in the back yard, or I’d stand there worrying about nuclear war and the rise of authoritarianism.
After a couple more weeks, I finally went to throw them away, and I saw it: tiny white nodules on the stems. The beginning of roots. I put the bottle back on the sill.
All through the winter, this plant has brought joy, and I have marveled. The water has stayed remarkably clear, and the roots are now pretty impressive.
The water, the bottle, the roots themselves have become a filter through which I have watched the changing light for the last four months — the low arc in deep December that barely even clears the roofline of the neighbors’ house, then its insistent, incremental inching back, the way it starts to reach in, grazing the countertop with its long-angled glow right around mid-January.
Even in the scarce winter light, the roots have managed to gather enough in to keep growing. There is new growth on the two stems, too, nests of bright green leaves that lean into the afternoon light and are pushing up beyond the long-dried blossoms. I imagine these two plants, the lone survivors of the biting October frost, now growing in a bottle of water through the darkest months of the year — are they the fittest of their kind? If I transplant them in spring, will they flourish and make seeds and pass on their undefeatable DNA? Even when I ignored them, they just started finding a way to take root. Fawning attention and cushy care were not built into their growth model. They’re here to survive and thrive and send out a message of themselves in the form of these tendriled floating roots. It’s in their nature. I just love them for not giving up. Did my daughter bring me a miracle in her fat little hands, imbued with her earnest wonder and her simple desire to show love? These are for you, momma. I cut them myself.
And what about me? Here at 40, barely keeping it together some days. Surprised, caught off guard sometimes by my reflection and the evidence of gravity and time. Trying to navigate caring for our young kids and our aging parents and ourselves and our marriage, not always feeling that successful at any of it. Flailing a little in winter darkness, in dark times, not sure where the light went in my country, in a country I didn’t realize I loved so fiercely until I saw it so starkly imperiled by my passivity and privilege.
When light is scarce, can I find a way to reach for what’s there, to willfully seek the pattern of the light’s return, to grow so intimate with the light that I anticipate its arc and run to meet it, to turn myself broadside to every last minute of grace in order to keep growing? Can I will myself to be a miracle, a stubborn force of life, wherever I am planted?