Companion Plants

Sometimes fussy, sometimes impervious to neglect,
but often achingly slow growing.
It may be an expensive and rare specimen,
mailed away for,
or you, drunk, pulled it out of
a dumpster
on the way home at three
in the morning,
or perhaps a long ago housemate, otherwise utterly forgotten, left
that plant,
a can of soup, one dirty sock and
no rent check,
or an elderly lady gave it to you when you were small,
wishing you a lifetime of growing.

Or it was your grandmother's.

You live with it for years,
for decades.
It accompanies you.

When you move, it comes along.
When the hurricane swirls in,
when the wild fire rages close with embers dancing,
you grab the dog,
the kids,
important documents,
that plant
and flee.

It's there on the window sill,
gathering dust while you are on your honeymoon.
There in the kitchen when you bring the new baby home from the hospital.
On the hall table,
surrounded by cards of condolence
when your father dies.
You shoo'ed your new kitten away from it,
and seventeen years later,
it sits atop the box containing the ashes of an old cat.

When you finally throw out your spouse,
and your old life,
the plant is still there, green.
Its lacy foliage doesn't complement a Croton's waxiness.
The amber of its stems don't
exist to contrast with Canna flowers.
Its life is not to be companion to other plants.
Its life is companioning you. Its life.

Somehow through all that living you water it,
repot it,
give it fresh soil mix and every once in a while,
a little fertilizer.
It may be in the same pot forever,
or it may get more substantial accommodations over time,
if you do. Or even if you

It may win a prize at a show.

It is not like your prom pictures,
your Teddy Bear, a souvenir from Hawaii, or
your mother's wedding dress.
It is not a

It is alive,
something you kept alive. Green.
You have breathed in the oxygen that
it breathed out.
It has absorbed carbon dioxide
you exhaled.

Though your dreams may have died,
it is there and alive,
a promise kept,
so imperceptibly growing
you didn't notice,
until one day the fog of the swift slow slog of living cleared
and you realized it,
grander, stronger, insistent.

(Two extraordinary plants photographed at the Inter City Cactus and Succulent Show held August 14, 2009 at the Los Angeles County Arboretum)


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