Check out my Zombie Flower, back from the dead! I last planted pansies in this pot in Spring 2010. They withered from the summer heat and my general neglect. Then they got dumped on by brutal snowstorms all winter, and spit on by harsh spring rains. But this week, strangely, one has defiantly pushed up through the soil and rotting leaves to raise its head high. Mysterious! I thought pansies were annuals and weren’t supposed to do that. This is one hardy pansy.

This morning I saw evidence that squirrels had rummaged around the pot. They left the Zombie Flower alone. It wields an eerie power.

I have to admire its pluck. If it’s looking for care, it’s come to the wrong place. I don’t have time to water it or to deadhead its spent blossoms. Gardening is at the bottom of my list. Heck, it’s not even on the paper. It’s a postscript following an afterthought.

It shouldn’t be. I come from a big gardening family. From people who actually think it’s fun to weed for hours in the baking sun, and who eschew fancy irrigation systems for the joys of wrestling a hose. My people have lush yards, front and back, tangled and perfumed with thriving plants. They can throw a stick in the ground and watch it blossom into something extraordinary. My grandfather was a salesman for the Lily Seed Company, and a passionate, gifted gardener. He passed away over ten years ago, yet my mother, who lives in his house now, still finds the odd flower cropping up amidst hers, some persistent strain he planted so many years ago making its way to the surface. 

I often feel I lack the gardening gene. Maybe I just lack time. Maybe when I emerge from under my novel revisions, my family obligations, other work, and the many people and things that seem to demand my attention, I too will get to see the sun and try my hand at plants. It’s an intriguing idea.

But more intriguing to me is the concept of a plant that thrives when untended. Kind of like an idea. Have you ever noticed how when you turn your back, or switch to some mundane task, the best ideas sneak up on you? Or a concept you had months or years ago suddenly explodes in your mind, and you have to drop everything and write it all down? This happens to me a  lot lately. It’s why I keep white boards on my kitchen wall. Just as I think I’m stuck in my book, I’ll go rinse off some dishes, or start fixing food, and bam! —  there’s the insight I was looking for. I scribble it down, my hands dripping wet. I love it when I find an idea has been quietly developing all this time, beneath the surface, and suddenly pushes through. (Yeah, I guess I’m not much of a cook either. But that’s another story . . . )

So I guess I am gardening these days, in a sense. I’m trying to harvest ideas and words. But I look forward to taking a break at some point to try my hand at an actual plant.

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the Zombie Flower. Maybe I’ll even throw some water on it this afternoon. Or, I don’t know, tomorrow. I expect it’ll hang on awhile longer without my doing too much.