A good friend and former coworker gave me an orchid plant a few years ago…four years ago in January, actually, when I returned to work after being out for a week when my mother died.
The plant was in a small dark reddish/maroon ceramic cup and had four broad, intensely green leaves and two vines or stems that were about six to eight inches long/tall and had anywhere from eight or ten flowers on each…I don’t remember exactly…
After a few months of “watering” it with crushed ice a couple of times a week, I found that I just couldn’t keep it watered enough and that the ice just melted and ran straight through the cup and the flowers wilted very soon and the broad dark leaves went soft and then stayed that way.
Not too long after that, I purchased a much larger pot and a bag of Miracle-Grow-infused orchid bark and repotted my little plant. When I removed it from the smaller cup, I found that there were “tons” of root material curled into a huge twisted mass at the bottom of the cup, something that I sadly trimmed away and discarded in the trash…but it had to be done.
And now, four years later, I have seen a second plant grow up from the bark and sprout its own four leaves and two vines or stems with their many flowers, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all, 15, 18, 20…. My morning routine each day at work is to stop and greet the plant on the window sill near my desk. I gently rub the dark green surface of the uppermost leaves, maybe rotate the planter to make sure the flowers aren’t touching the glass, and whisper “Hello,” something that seems silly as I type it here, but seems natural and only right when I do it every morning. I think I probably perform this ritual to honor the plant’s life and the trust it must have in my routine to care for it…and to likewise honor the friend who gave it to me, his compassion and empathy, and to remember my mother, to acknowledge her continued presence and absence and all of the things I could and don’t say about that.
And it is now my weekly routine upon coming back to the office on Mondays to trim/pluck the flowers that have wilted over the weekend…and so we have this post. After I tossed the single flower into the trash a couple of weeks ago, went about my new morning at the desk, and then happened to look down into the trash. I was struck by the color and textures of the wilted body and leaves in its surroundings of the clean clearish-white trash bag…and was reminded immediately of some images that my blog friend, Lynn, has shared with us at Bluebrightly, particularly the ones of leaves and flowers pressed against the inside surface of a green-house’s windows or plastic tarpaulin partitions…the texture and form and light all combining to give us another micro-celebration of awe and wonder at the event and the artist’s eye and mind and heart to find it and capture it so.
I can walk about the house and smell her in various places, the bathroom where she gets ready in the morning, or at my desk when she has her purse there next to my work bag, on the pillows after she has left our bed, or on my sweatshirts that she has stolen and made her own. Our children used to take her perfume bottles from the trash to hide them in their treasure boxes, and take them out again…in their teens and twenties…to smell their mom when they were feeling lonely or simply needful of her nearness. Her dying father crept downstairs to where she had slept in the spare room after she left for home and curled-up in her bed, crying, holding her pillow…so he could smell her and be near her again. It is a scent that has become the person who wears it, and it has permeated our lives unknowingly, and boldly…it is something we need, something that we miss without being able to name when it is gone, and something that refreshes and restores our souls when it returns…and it is Mom and daughter and wife and Lori…and the taste that lingers on my lips when I kiss her neck and…it is a fullness of life, a comfort, an essence…of her.
How do you know that you’re loved? What tangible something can you label as being a sign or indication that someone loves you? Or is it not tangible? It’s a feeling, right? Is it that knowing or sensing what the other feels for you? Is it the comprehending of their appreciation, your importance, their need for you, what you know in your homecoming, what you sense in your going-away, or their homecoming or their going away? Is it real? How enduring is it? What things or events or forgetting or betrayals can damage that love beyond all repair or healing? How temporal is it? How can one/we say it will last forever? Will it be the same in its enduring? How will it change with the passing of days and months and years? How will the love of today resemble the love that you/one had a decade or more ago? What trials actually make it stronger or weaker? What little ‘nothings’ or ‘somethings’ will make it stronger? How does it fade when there are no trials or challenges to it? How does it grow when there are no trials or challenges to it? How does it stay the same or remain constant when there are no trials or challenges to it? How do celebrations make it stronger? How does participating in others’ love make yours stronger? How does participating in a second love make your primary love stronger or weaker? How does loving your spouse make your love for your children stronger? How does your parents’ display of love make your own love stronger, both as a spouse and as a parent? Does an atheist sense and feel love the same way as someone who believes in God, or a god? Does an atheist sense or feel love more on a gut or human level and a believer more on a supernatural level? Does a Christian experience love the same was a Muslim does, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Jew, or a believer of any other religion or belief-system? If a Christian and an atheist fall in love with each other, does the Christian love the atheist more than the atheist loves the Christian? Does the love of a potential God make any and all of your loves stronger or weaker? Does the love of a potential God make any and all of your loves stronger or weaker than the loves that you would experience if God didn’t/doesn’t exist? How does the possibility of suffering in Hell make one’s love for God stronger? How do you actually ‘love’ a god who threatens you with an eternity of suffering in Hell if you choose not to believe in and ‘love’ him/her/it? How do we choose to believe or love? We can decide to be ‘committed’ to someone or something, but how do we decide to actually ‘love’ someone or something? Doesn’t love either happen or it doesn’t? If one has a poor relationship with one’s parents, or father in particular, how does that really affect one’s ability or willingness to accept and love a potential heavenly father? How do you know when your parents love you? How can you tell that your mother, mom, mommy, or ma loves you? How can you tell that your father, dad, daddy, papa, or pa loves you? And your siblings, how can you feel their love? If you’ve been estranged or moderately distant from your siblings for the majority or entirety of your adult life, do you really still love them? Do they really still love you? You don’t know each other, so how can you say that you ‘love’ each other? Does having a shared set of parents and childhood mean that you’re ‘supposed’ to love each other? What does it mean if you don’t ‘feel’ that love? Is the love you might/do feel from your siblings different than the love you might/do feel from your best friend? Is the love you feel from your siblings different than the love you feel from your best female or male friend, when you’re a male, or when you’re a female? Do you feel love differently when you’re a guy or a girl? Isn’t infatuation really the same as love? Can love grow out of infatuation if it’s not the same thing? Can love grow out of hate? Is there really, or actually a fine line between love and hate? Are they actually so closely related emotionally? Do you feel love differently when you’re a man or a woman? Do you feel your mom’s love greater when you’re a boy child or a girl child? Do you feel your father’s love greater when you’re a boy child or a girl child? Do you feel your mom’s love more than you feel your dad’s? When you’re an adult, do you still feel the love that you might have felt as a child from your parents as strongly as you did when you where younger? How do your adult experiences as a parent affect the love that you remember feeling for your parents when you were a child? How do your adult feelings of love for your parents affect the love that you have for your young or adult children? Do we dare love our in-laws in the same way or more than our own parents? Is it ever okay to identify more with them than with our own parents, or is that a betrayal? If we think we love our in-laws more than we love our own parents, does that say more about ourselves or about our parents? What if we can’t stand our spouse’s parents? What if we can’t imagine how they could possibly love their parents? How do you measure the love that your spouse says they have for their parents against the strength of love that they say they have for you? How do we claim to ‘love’ people when we don’t really like them? How can we say that we actually love someone when we don’t like them? How can we not like someone when we say that we actually love them? Is it even possible to love someone if we don’t like them? Is love like belief? Do we love the idea of love without actually loving the way some people believe in belief without actually believing? Is it possible to love someone without them knowing that we love them? Or, can we love them without letting them know? Is it possible to be loved or to feel loved without knowing who’s actually loving you? Rather, do we feel or know it if someone loves us but leaves no outward indication of that love? Does love leave a mark or a track somehow? Is there some type of electromagnetically-spiritually-staticky-kind-of-powersurge-kind-of-chemical-something-or-other that one can sense or know when in the presence of someone who loves them? When we ‘feel’ that someone loves us, what are we actually feeling? Is it love or desire or lust or infatuation or like or compassion or similarity or dependency or co-dependency or co-survivorship or co-spirituality or oneness? Is it possible to be co-spiritual or ‘one’ with someone and not love them or be loved by them? Can you share ‘soul-mate’ status with someone and not love them or be loved by them? If you love your same-gendered soul-mate does that mean
you’re gay? Do gay people love as intensely or as deeply as straight people? If you’re straight and come to love a person who is gay, does that make you gay, too? Isn’t it possible to want someone so strongly, or intensely, physically that we think we love them? Or isn’t it possible to be so intensely wanted by someone physically that we think they love us? If someone treats us like shit, how can we still love them? If someone kills, abuses, or treats our child or children poorly, how can we still love them? How can we even like them? Does a parent who leaves with their children to prevent/stop physical or emotional abuse of themselves and/or their children by their spouse/partner love their children more than the parent who doesn’t leave to prevent/stop the same abuse by their spouse/partner? Will the children of the parent who left with them love more strongly than the children of the parent who didn’t leave with their children? Will the children of the parent who left with them love their parent more strongly than do the children of the parent who didn’t leave with their children? If we were abused or neglected as children and missed-out on something like ‘true-parental-love,’ is our measure of any kind of love ever accurate following our childhoods, or will it only be experienced in the extremes? Do foster children love the same way biological children love? Does a foster child who gets adopted feel love the same way a biological child feels love? Does a foster child who ages-out (turns 18yo) of the system without having been adopted understand love the same way another foster child does who did get adopted? Will the love of the aged-out foster child be as strong or as enduring as it would have been if they had been adopted at some time? Do the adoptive parents love the adopted child the same way they love their biological children? Do adopted children love their adoptive parents more than their adoptive parents’ biological children love them? Do people who cannot reproduce biologically and adopt children love their adopted children the same way parents do who were able to biologically reproduce? Should parents admit, even to themselves, that they love one of their children more or less than they love another or the rest of their children? Should parents admit, even to themselves, that they like one of their children more or less than they like another or the rest of their children? If we had a crappy childhood, but had a dog or cat that we loved and felt loved by, will that pet-love be a reliable or appropriate measure to compare other non-pet loves to if and when they occur? If we had a relationship that started with both of us ‘loving’ the other and things went sour along the line somewhere and our love came to nothing or came to be something so far removed from what we had at first understood to be love, how does that tainted ‘love’ effect any subsequent loves that we might come to know? Will the subsequent love be more real or pure than the first one was, even though, at its inception, that other love was understood to be real and pure? Do we measure our friends’ love for us against what we know of love as a child or as a sibling? When there are social power differentials between the people in a relationship, does one actually love the other more? Does the lesser-powered person love the higher-powered person more than the reverse? Is this like a child-parent love, but twisted somehow into whatever it is? Does a preacher love his congregation more than the members of his congregation love him? Does a child love a teacher more than the teacher loves the child? Does a priest love God more than his God loves him? Does God love Satan and his fallen angels? Do Satan and his fallen angels actually love anybody? Can an evil person love other people? Can an evil person feel love from another person? Do the answers to these two questions depend on the definition of this particular ‘evil’ and the context in which it exists? Did Hitler actually love anybody? Did he sense Eva Braun’s love for him? Did she actually ‘love’ him? Did she know everything about him and still love him? Did the serial-killer ‘Son of Sam’ actually love someone? Did he sense anyone’s love for him? While a psychopath doesn’t or can’t empathize with others, are they capable of sensing love for themselves? Did Adam love Eve even though he didn’t get to choose her? Did Eve love Adam even though she was formed or brought to substance from one of his ribs…and didn’t get to choose him as her mate? Did Adam and Eve still love Cain after he killed his brother, Abel? Did Cain and Abel love their wives the same way Adam loved their mother, Eve? (Don’t ask me where Cain and Abel got their wives; that’s another essay.) Did Adam and Eve love God, even after he had them chased out of the Garden of Eden? When our babies look at us while they’re nursing or being fed a bottle, can we know their love for us when we’re looking into their eyes? Are they capable of loving us or knowing that we love them…or is this pre-verbal state or place where love actually begins and is undefined and is pure and has no measure? If Abraham really loved his son, how could he put him on the altar and be prepared to sacrifice him for God? Is it right to love God more than we love our children? Is it right to follow the rules that our church has established, to love our church, more than we love our children? If our church tells us to stop ‘fellowshipping’ with our child because they no longer believe the things that the church teaches, should we choose our church over our child? Does love allow us to dis-fellowship our children, or should this be a sign that we should dis-fellowship our church from ourselves because we love our children more? Would God’s love for Himself demand that we turn our backs on the children we love if they no longer love or believe in Him? Does God still love a person who was brought-up in the church and got ‘saved’ when he/she was a child, and then reaffirmed his/her love for God and rededicated himself/herself to God and his service when he/she was an adult and then slowly came to doubt and no longer believe in God and His word, but instead believes that the notion of God/god is a myth, does God, if He really does exist, still love that person? And does God, if He exists, love that person as much as He loves a person who never questioned or doubted His existence, but lived and ‘loved’ Him faithfully? Do Christian parents love their Christian children more or less or the same as they love their atheist children? If we perceive that we are loved by a certain person, but that person doesn’t actually love us, are we still loved because we perceive or feel that we are loved by them? And if someone actually does love us but we perceive that they don’t, are we still loved? Does a person who loves another person in spite of knowing the worst thing about them, which wasn’t horrible, love the person as much as someone else who loves another person in spite of knowing the worst thing about them, which was
horrible? Does a serial-killer’s mom love her serial-killer son as much as another mom loves her son who isn’t a serial killer? Should a serial-killer’s mom still love him? Should anybody still love him? Does he deserve love? Given that people often don’t get what they deserve and just as often get things that they don’t deserve, should the serial-killer be loved? Should/does Jesus still love the serial-killer? Should God forgive the serial-killer? Should/does Jesus still love people who murder their girlfriend’s children? Should God forgive that person who murdered his girlfriend’s children? Was Jesus’ blood shed to wash-away the sins of serial-killers and people who murder their girlfriend’s children? Really? Is that the ultimate in love, to be God/Jesus and have your blood shed, or to give your life to wash-away the sins of people who have done absolutely horrible and disgusting things and that if they believe in you and the cleansing power of your love, they will be forgiven and join you and the other believers in your eternal heaven or paradise? Really? Does the horrible sinner who has a lot to be forgiven love God more than the average sinner who has only an average amount of sin to be forgiven? And does that super-sinner then know or sense a greater love from God than the average sinner? Does God love the super-sinner more than He loves the average sinner, given that He’s forgiven/forgiving more of the super-sinner’s transgressions? Does God love the prodigal more than He loves the one who never left? If you fell in love with someone forty years ago and then split apart and married someone else, and that someone else died or left you somehow and you reconnected again with that first someone with whom you had fallen in love and fell in love again, would this second ‘being in love’ be as strong as it was those forty years ago? Would this second time really even be falling in love, or would it be falling in love with the totality of the memory of having earlier fallen in love? Does a soldier returning from a war in which he killed people, up close or from afar, experience a different intensity of love than he did before he went to war? Do the children of a soldier returning from a war in which he killed people, up close or from afar, love him/her as intensely as children love their soldier parent who didn’t go to war or aren’t soldiers? Do prostitutes love their children less than people who are not prostitutes love their children? Do prostitutes who later get married experience a different intensity of love than do people who were never prostitutes and get married? Does marrying someone mean that you love them more than if you didn’t marry them but lived with them for the rest of your life? Do parents of an only-child love their child more than parents who have multiple children? Does an only-child love his/her parents with a greater intensity than do children from multiple-child families? Does an only-child love his friends more or less intensely than do children from multiple-child families? Does an adult who was an only-child love his children any differently than a parent does who came from a multiple-child family? Do only-children feel cheated by their parents from experiencing sibling-love? Do single-sons feel cheated by their parents from experiencing true brotherly love, or do single-daughters feel cheated from experiencing true sisterly love? Is love the same to me as it is to you? Does my feeling of love feel the same as your feeling of love? Can I know love the same way that you can know love? Will or does the list of questions about love ever end?
In despair…despair…dispair…despear…deaspear…dispare…disappear…disappare…disappear…dead-spear…die-sphere…dead sphere.
I lay there with sparkling glass all about me. The sun could blind a living eye with this glaring prism of light that is alive itself. Concrete is warm as leather-soled shoes stop on the sidewalk across the street. Cigarette butts, gum wrappers, and spent leaves lay around me. A paper cup with orange and yellow flowers sealed beneath cracking wax is blown against the curb under his paused foot. The wing-tip is untied and has a hole in the great toe. A white sock peeks out, surveying the air. A lost pebble under the ball of his foot nears him to craziness. No briefcase to put down before he sits to the curb. No hat to tamp against gravity before he leans over to remove the stone. My eyes see him but my brain just lets him be. The metal taste in my mouth is like a penny hidden under the tongue. I can’t spit it out. He looks at me like he’s done something wrong. Hair flutters in his eye, then mine. And mine. Sand from the concrete presses into my cheek as he examines his sock. His mother doesn’t know where he is. Mine thinks I’m at work. Of course, she’s thought the same thing for years, or weeks on end; at day’s end. Days end. For that’s where I was. When I was. When I was there, the world spun as it does now. It still spins. The world spins still; it spins not moving, still. If you can know something like that, I guess that’s what it was doing, when I was, and doing. A feather, still. His old tweed jacket has holes in its holes. Cigarette burns in the arms with the lining appearing without. My ears still ring; the blood yet flows through the tiny capillaries near the surface of my skin; it is still warm. It tingles when a car drives by. A truck makes it louder. And, he sits, not knowing what to do. The wheels on the chair spun for only a few seconds. They were startled, too. And the glass, it was whole and unnoticed when it was clean. Now it’s lost its pane and its absence draws a crowd. It is scared, fallen to pieces, broken near into sand. Lost. He sees the people looking down to the street. He sees the clouds crawl past the horizon. The building leans toward him so he rises and looks about. Not away. She thinks I’m at work. He saw me fall silently to the street. That pain is gone. That pain has severed the feelings that had been severed so long ago. Happiness fled itself. And drawn away. It screamed as I walked past, “Come here!” Don’t leave. Go away. The grit in the street crunched beneath his foot as the siren’s car approached. It left whole for another place, its tail following behind. The tiny hairs picking up the static dust. The lint and fiber of nonsense. Nonsence. Nonsents. Non-scents. Non-cents, he went bankrupt. Fell out of life. I fell to the street. He just fell out of life. And went away. They are lost. Do you look around? Does it sparkle in other places too? The clouds are lowering a story at a time. Birds flew past the ledges without second thinking. They dropped their things in flight and landed in other places. We’re not the same. The chair flew out and took me with it. Anger seized, seized, seized, seased, ceased, teased, teized, seized me. In a rage the clouds swept me up. They tossed me higher and crashed me harder than clouds should. So friendly when viewed from the park grass. They threaten nobody there. So soft, like cotton candy – over-used simile. In the end. His split finger-nails had been chewed down to the quick. Dirty fingers housed the nails and brushed the hair out of my face. The flattened side of my head didn’t feel flat; it didn’t ache either. I saw ants on the sidewalk, undisturbed they were. Undisturbed they were before I saw them, too. I had hidden in the bathroom, sat there so long that my legs had nightmares. The fan overhead drowned-out the speakers on the wall. The walls heard the speakers, but they didn’t listen. They kept on standing there, fastened, undisturbed, too. As dust falls, it sees its friends lying about, keeping a place for anybody else who might happen to drop in. They collect, one by one. Slowly there is a film of their bodies, covering whatever they touch. Are they happy? Water washes them away. They’re weak. The chair just took me like I was weak too. I only meant to hurl it at the window; then it grabbed my tight, angry fingers. White knuckles tensed the blood away. The weight just took me like I was weak, too. I smell vinegar from the mustard on his fingers. There is some yellow, too. The breeze replaces my hair. The breeze misplaces my hair. Our moms ought to get together. His doesn’t know where he is, mine thinks I’m at work. I succeeded today. Now I’ll nev