Hope in a Very Small Vase

Winter snow frames the fragile bud and glass pitcher on my windowsill.

Last year was full of dramatic upheavals and new beginnings. Root-bound, I was like one of my houseplants, dry and scraggly, leaning out in odd directions in a desperate reach towards sun and water. Drastic steps were required. So I took a hard look at my life. It takes energy to carry dead weight, so I trimmed off everything that wasn’t vital or nourishing. When I was done, I was just a cutting, rootless and small, taking a huge gamble on my own capacity for new growth. It was sketchy at best, but I was determined.

Early last fall, with a new jobMy tiny budding geranium cutting has an uncertain future. and a rosier outlook, I was thinking about the oncoming cold weather, and how much a blooming geranium brightens up a winter window. And in a mad fit of hope, I cut a piece off of the one geranium that has survived in my kitchen, and stuck it in a small vase of water. Maybe, just maybe, it would grow roots, and I could plant it. Maybe it would bloom. Maybe I could put it in my office at work and have flowers in winter. Maybe it would flourish. Maybe (this was getting to be a lot of “maybes”) it would be a symbol of my own burgeoning hopes and aspirations, of new potential coming into fruition.

Taking a scrap of plant matter with a dubious future and asking it to serve as a cheerful metaphor for my own personal development probably wasn’t a great idea. Seriously — if you want to turn plants into metaphors, you should probably at least use an actual, healthy, entire plant, not an uncertain cutting. But, well, that’s me. I have an affinity for the improbable.

I watched my little cutting eagerly. I waited for roots. Nothing happened. I waited some more. Still nothing. I kept waiting, and my little cutting appeared to grow some kind of under-water mold that was slimy and black. I rinsed it off, changed the water, put it back on the windowsill, and waited some more. By this point, I was pretty sure my autumn vigil was pointless, and my expectations lowered considerably. But still…maybe…

Then a miracle happened. A tiny little root appeared. And then another. Then more.

My cutting grew a mass of pearly white-green roots. It grew a bud and new leaves, and it bloomed in a glorious globe of bright red blossoms. Success! All was well. I stopped worrying about it and just reveled in that joyous splash of color against a backdrop of winter greys and browns.

I meant to plant it, but Thanksgiving had arrived, and it could wait. I was thankful for my little bloom. I would plant it when life settled down a bit.

By Christmas the leaves started to die. One by one, they turned yellow, and then brown, shriveled, and fell off.

By New Year’s Day my cutting was nothing more than a stick with roots in water.

Sometimes timing is everything, and I’d dawdled. But the thing is, I am a crazy-hopeful person, even when hope is a little absurd. So I changed the water again and set it back on the windowsill, trying not to think about my failing metaphor.

My geranium cutting is trying to grow again.
Geranium Bud, March 8th 2015.

Somehow, just as February rolled over into March, a small cluster of buds and a teeny tiny baby leaf appeared! Three weeks later, it is officially spring, and the bud on my struggling geranium is ever so slightly bigger. Also browner, which leaves me a little uncertain as to whether or not this is actually progress. But somehow, it is still alive, and trying to grow.

I’m not going to disturb it just yet — I’m afraid to shock its little system right now. But I feel like I’m being given a second chance. I am watching very carefully. This time, if it grows, I will plant it. I will take better care. And maybe, just maybe, we will flourish together.

The bud is ever so slightly bigger now, but also browner.
Geranium Bud, March 22nd 2015.

 

7 thoughts on “Hope in a Very Small Vase

  1. Relationships are like this, too. I you see any relationship start growing that slime/mold under the water line, you have to take it out lovingly and rinse it off and clean the water, and nurture it.

    Too many people see the beginning of mold and say: “This relationship is moldy, I will throw it out, because it is disgusting.” Then they form their opinions of life and relationships based on throwing things away. The look at your leafy green and think that there is some magic involved.

    No, just rinse of the mold when you see it beginning, and change the water.

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    1. Blaze, I like your analogy! I think success, in many situations, is mostly a matter of refusing to give up. I think there are times in some relationships where giving up is a *good* thing – it can be really, really hard to know when it’s time to let go and move on. But that said, very little in life that’s worth having or doing comes easily, and a LOT of things work out because you keep trudging forward and holding on to hope even when there’s no apparent reason to keep hoping. I guess that’s where the ability to take a leap of faith comes in handy. For myself, I know sheer determination and doggedly showing up no matter what has gotten me through a lot of difficult times. That and the love of those who stand beside me. It helps to be able to borrow someone else’s faith, when my own is in short supply.

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  2. It really does take energy to carry around dead weight. I’m glad things turned around for you and hope it’s still going in a steady direction towards better times. And do keep us posted about the geranium! It’s amazing that it sprung back to life again! 😀

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  3. TJ, so far, so good…there’s a long way still to go, but I’m working on it, and the path is a lot clearer right now. Last year was a time for drastic measures and leaps of faith. This year is the year for continued hard work, wild creativity, and steady work towards important goals. The results are still uncertain. But I look at where I am now vs. where I was last year, and I feel pretty good about the progress. So I think if I keep on plugging, as they say, it will work out sooner or later. Meanwhile I’m having a lot of fun learning and writing and drawing and growing. All good things.

    The geranium still looks almost exactly like it does in the March 22nd photo above, except that instead of blooming, the bud dried up and fell off. It hasn’t grown at all, that I can see, but it also hasn’t died. I’d been thinking I’d wait to plant it until it looked a little more certain – but nothing much has changed. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting, take action, and plant the poor thing! I’m happy to say that I no longer feel like my own well-being is tied to the success or failure of this cutting. My geranium might not be making progress, but I am. So I can tend to it and try to figure out what it needs without taking it’s lack of growth personally. 😉 Metaphor or not, I’d still love to see it thrive and bloom!

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