If you follow my blog, you know of my love of gardening. I am particularly enamored of desert roses (aka adeniums), their thickened stems, their brilliant blooms.
Adeniums aren’t native to the Sonoran Desert. They are succulents from Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. However, they flourish in our bright, nearly constant sun. They thrive in our Arizona heat from March through November.
Now that my husband and I have lived in Scottsdale year-round for nearly six years, it’s a ritual for us to keep them indoors in our sunroom from December until mid-March, so they are protected on cool nights. Then, in mid-March, we carry them back outside to soak up the sun until the end of November.
Until this afternoon, I was the proud owner of two adeniums. One produces dazzling double-red blooms; the other has yet to bloom. (A third died a year ago. I think I over-watered it.) So today Tom and I stopped at Lowe’s for a new plant to adorn our south-facing, back patio.
As I scanned a sea of cacti and succulents, I spied this pink pearl adenium. Or maybe she picked me. At any rate, we brought her home. I found a suitable spot for her in this green, ceramic container.
She’s the perfect distraction–a gorgeous plant I might have missed–while I count the final days until my book of poetry emerges for all the world (or at least a smattering of poetry lovers) to see. Hopefully, by Easter. Stay tuned.
As a writer and gardener, I’ve learned there is constancy and comfort embedded in the rituals of life.
Each time I sit before my laptop to tell another story I feel a sense of grounding. My hard-working grandfather, the North Carolina farmer, must have understood that. He kept a journal every day for fifty-two consecutive years–from 1933 until the day he died in 1985.
Less about his personal reflections, much of what S.R. Ferrell wrote was about the day-in-day-in responsibilities of farm life. For instance, forty-nine years ago on his seventy-second birthday, this is what he had to say:
I did my farm chores in cloudy foggy wet morning. The mud is getting deeper by the day. I mopped the kitchen after I got my outside work done. I changed my clothes and went to Huntersville to get prescriptions filled. My 72nd birthday. Jimmy, Frankie and Frances came and ate lunch with us today. Mamma and Zelma called and talked to me. Cloudy, wet, muddy, mild all day. More rain expected tonight. 54 degree low; 60 degree high.
There is nothing spectacular in these words until you consider that he wrote down his thoughts for more than five decades. Little did he know that–long after he was gone–I would read every page of his journals and (after my mother and his daughter died) write a book about the writing DNA that runs through my blood.
Now that I’m a desert rat, I keep a speckled rock from S.R.’s farm in our Arizona garden. At this moment, it’s wedged in the ground under our fig tree. Every time I water the tree, I see the stone. It reminds me of my southern roots and connection to the earth.
In keeping with the ebb and flow of nature and lineage, I do this ceremonial gardening dance twice a year. In early December, I lug my beloved desert roses (aka, adeniums) inside away from winter’s chill. They hide dormant in the darkest corners of our condo until March, when I haul them back outside to face the world again.
Yesterday morning, one day before S.R.’s 121st birthday, I renewed part two of this desert rose ritual. This year, it also happened to be the day Tom hired Chem Dry to clean our carpet.
Before Drew from Chem Dry arrived, my husband and I hoisted our slumbering desert rose and situated it outside our backdoor. We didn’t want to spill any soil on our freshly manicured carpet.
All of that went without a hitch. Neither of us strained our backs and Drew finished his job in less than an hour. The carpet even dried more quickly than expected.
By early afternoon, we were able to walk on the surface without wearing blue booties. By 3 p.m., we had moved all of our furniture back to where it belonged.
The blooming cycle for our prized adenium will take quite a bit longer. Rest assured, new leaves will appear this spring, prompted by warmer, longer days. Though S.R. never traveled to Arizona, I can imagine him sitting with his sleeves rolled up between farm tasks, nodding in his rocking chair as I write these words.
By June (maybe sooner) when the temperatures have reached 100-plus again here in the Valley of the Sun, this remarkable plant will produce several gorgeous double-red blooms. With it all, once again, I will have physical proof that natural beauty is constant.
Even though it feels like the rest of the world has gone mad, I draw strength from fertile ground and the knowledge that these rituals help me feel hope is always on the horizon.