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 job 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.
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.