Mourning in Blue

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It took you three months to die.

 

I watched, holding my breath – “hang on” I cried in silent desperation each morning as I touched your leaves – I wept as each a fragile green shoot appeared and withered before my aching eyes. Stunted palm shaped fronds curled, turned gray with the poison in the air as invisible fungus spores settled on insect weakened leaves. I managed to kill the bugs within a week but it was already too late.

 

Some part of me knew that I was losing you almost from the first day we arrived there, but I couldn’t stay with that truth. I could not help you because I could not help myself. We were both drowning in grief – You became the mirror for the two months of torment that we both endured, the lack of sleep, the weakening of our will, our inability to fight a kind of darkness that became your death shroud…

 

I had a prophetic dream two days after I arrived. In the vision Iren and I were in a hospital watching a woman die. That woman dear passionflower, was made of plants and human flesh. That woman, of course, was the two of us entwined…

 

Who can separate a woman from her plant and animal soul?

 

Maybe when we get out… I would think in desperation as I too became ill.

 

I had moments of wild hope.

 

When Grace opened a door for escape we fled.

 

Perhaps, in this house made of light you might still recover? I mused. You were hanging on by a thread. I brought you into our bedroom hoping to warm dying roots. I saw each new shoot struggle to take form as you tried so desperately to live while I choked on the same prayer. “Oh please grow,” I begged, “I cannot stand to lose you.”

 

I know one truth. If I could have I would have let you go more gracefully than I did. Decomposing roots and leaves returning to the warming earth to nourish new plants and trees is closing the circle of life.

 

But I had already lost too much too fast…

 

And I am human.

 

Forgive me.

 

I was selfish, I know.

 

As the warming light settled on your pitiful trunk, now cut back to it’s only living arm I still hoped, even as I watched bud after bud appear and shrivel until at last, a week ago, there was only one tiny green nub left…

 

This morning that one bud gave up the ghost of your soul.

 

The canyon was flooded with mountain bluebirds returning for spring…

 

All day I circled back to stand over your dead body. I held you close to my heart – imagined you wrapping your beautiful leaves around me – you were part of my family – and I was grieving.

 

When the cloak of night closed on bleeding crimson sky I picked up your dead trunk and pot and gently placed it outside in the cold night air. It seemed for a moment that even the stars cracked and dimmed over my head, or perhaps it was the tears I shed. A solitary coyote howled down by the river.

 

You were my sister for thirteen years. Losing you I lost a part of myself that I will not recover. Your bountiful passionate vines that spiraled to the sky and blossomed impossibly fragrant crowns of blue tipped flowers, to my endless child-like delight, have entered deep time. Our joy in each other’s presence has been stilled forever.

 

I asked Iren for cuttings….

 

These came from your mother. Last year I gave this plant to her as a gift – (my most precious plant besides you) – in the depths of my gratitude for this woman who has such a great and generous heart.

 

Perhaps, one day, I will once again see a fragrant pink multi – petaled face with a startling cobalt blue crown appear out of the emerald green of healthy spiraling vines that will begin their lives flourishing in the same house where you once bloomed with such joyful abandon.

 

Each morning I search for that first root to appear… Be patient I remind myself ruefully. Be patient!

 

But no other plant will ever replace my love for you, not ever.

 

When I awakened in the pre-dawn hours this morning I went outside and stood there at the river’s edge watching the sky turn crimson again… my heart was torn in two – and yet from sunset to dawn, the Earth closed round us both.

 

Postscript one day later:

This morning one of the cuttings I am trying to root developed a small blossom – literally overnight. Although it will not bloom – I know this from experience having rooted so many cuttings for others – it was if the passionflower cutting responded to this writing in the most powerful way she could.

Some would call this synchronicity – I call it interspecies communication and offer my heartfelt gratitude for this message of hope.

Passionflower Muses

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When I pulled the shorn Passionlower out of her pot I winced, experiencing the familiar anxiety and grief because I have known for a long time that plants feel pain. I had already traumatized the Passionflower once the week before when I had clipped the plant’s graceful spiraling vines with their three lobed leaves close to the plant’s central stalk leaving only one vine and a few tendrils intact. By cutting her back I have made it possible for her to make the long distance trip to Abiquiu, New Mexico safely (She has to be covered in order not to freeze).

 

For the second time in a week I apologized to the plant profusely for the trauma explaining that I had to re-pot her in the same size pot because I couldn’t lift anything heavier. In order to create enough space for new soil, I had to rip away tender roots. The plant responded almost instantly with drooping leaves and wilted tendrils. My plant was in shock. I silently begged her to forgive me as I quickly packed new soil around the remaining ragged roots, watered, fed, and placed her back in her window, noting how similar her bent posture was to my own when I am grieving… I told her I loved her.

 

Four hours later I returned to see that my Passionflower leaves were spread out plump and evenly, shimmering emerald in the late afternoon sun. A few tendrils were climbing through the air searching for purchase. I tenderly turned them towards the center trunk in a spiral fashion knowing that this would keep them safe during the trip but also aware that these vines had minds of their own and would try to thwart my attempts to control them even for a brief moment in time!

 

When my impossible bird, Lily b. ripped off a tasty leaf to eat I hid the new growth behind two cactus plants that I hoped would deter him from creating further damage. With two days to go until we leave, I hope my bird continues to behave himself.

 

Now every time I inspect my Passionflower I feel gratitude that she seems to be thriving and relief that the trauma is over for both of us.

 

Most folks find my relationship with plants very strange, and yet plants grow for me in ways that are sometimes astonishing even to me! I treat plants with the same respect I accord to animals, believing them to be wise ones, teachers, and guides. After all, plants have existed in some form on this planet for 450,000 thousand years, animals for 350,000 years and in my way of thinking, they are literally our “elders.”

 

For most of my life my “anthropomorphizing,” that is attributing human characteristics and feelings to non – human beings, has brought me skepticism and ridicule, but my feeling/sensing body has not lied.

 

Recently, groundbreaking research informs us that trees in an untouched forest experience pain, have memories, communicate extensively with each other, develop close relationships between parents and children, and in some cases when the elders are cut down children continue to send the stumps sugar nutrients and water to keep the remnant of a once proud and stately tree alive for generations. In a natural forest community trees and plants need each other. The prestigious science journal Nature has coined this interdependence of forest species the “wood wide web.”

 

I feel vindicated at last.

 

My intimate relationship with plants stems back to my earliest childhood years. Plants and trees seemed to speak to me through my senses without the use of words. As I matured I never lost that sense that plants/trees and I were engaged in relationship even though I didn’t know the specifics. Eventually it became clear to me that they thrived on being loved. I trusted plants, much the way I trusted animals and unlike humans, they have never let me down.