Every once in a while something happens that triggers a memory of my late father. It’s usually the oddest things.
This time it’s the plant that’s shrivelling on my windowsill. It’s been sitting there since last year when my mom gave it to me. I have no idea why. We both know I’m horrible with plants. But she did and I even kept it going for a little while. But then we left on vacation and I forgot all about it. I came home to a gnarled little twig. Poor thing.
Just to add insult to injury, I kept forgetting to throw it away. It sat on my windowsill for a month before I noticed something unusual happening. A leaf had sprung from the wreckage I’d left behind. The twisted branch I had neglected for so long had decided to come back. To try again. Resilient little bugger.
I started watering it again after I noticed the change and now every time I look at it I can hear him. “You know if you add some more earth to the pot you can save that thing.”
It came over me quick. My chest tightened with the memory and I was there again. With him in his garden. So much green everywhere around us, the sun bounced off the plants and I had to squint for a moment to fight off the glare. Tomato plants taller than me and a fig tree that might as well have held gold on its branches as far as I was concerned. Near the end the tree had grown so large that it took my dad, my husband and my brother-in-law all working together to drag the pot inside every fall to protect it from our harsh winters.
He’d explain things to me that I hadn’t learned anywhere else. Taught me what the air smelled like right before a rainstorm. Crisp and damp and heavy with the impending downpour. I still love that smell. He showed me how the plants knew that the rain was coming just like the animals sensed it. How the trees knew to protect themselves, their leaves turning over so the rain and wind wouldn’t cause damage.
Now, I don’t know how much of this is scientific truth. But I do know that my father grew up around nature and every time he’s ever told me something, I opened my eyes to the world around me in a way I had never noticed before.
I honestly believe that if I am in any way capable of describing a scene when I’m writing it’s due in part to him. He taught me to understand scents, sights, sounds, textures and tastes in a way that made me feel grounded in the moment. In tune with the elements around me.
Maybe I’ll add the earth. Well, probably not. What fun would that be…