The Ideal Audience
The jade plant, too, can always be changing. This particular jade plant is one I bought when I lived alone in a soon to be torn down walk-up apartment building. I was in my mid-twenties, had just started going to university after taking a library technology diploma. I was working three jobs and going to school – two waitressing jobs, and I worked at the science library one evening and on Saturdays. One of the waiting jobs lasted about a year. I had no real social life, but I’d met Rob by then, and I remember feeling content. Worried all the time, and tired, too.
The apartment I lived in had good window sills, and I bought a couple of African violets and a jade plant. When I moved in with Rob, the plant moved, too. Over the years it’s been re-potted a few times. When we had our daughter, we moved to the suburbs, 19 years ago. We’ve been here ever since, and the jade plant was stuck on a windowsill in the basement where Rob’s studio is. In honesty, it’s where all the misshapen and unhealthy plants go. Rob can’t bear to see something that is still alive be put in the trash. He gives them another try.
A couple of weeks ago, Rob was doing a studio/basement clean-up, and wanted to clean the sill where the jade plant lives, so he brought it upstairs. It’s a weird looking plant, because it hardly ever gets moved, and the sun in its window is low and sparse. It’s fairly one-sided, leaning toward whatever light it can absorb. It’s pretty left leaning. It reaches. It strains. It persists. Sure, it’s misshapen and awkward and a bit off balance, but it’s unique.
I can’t help but think it’s a bit like us. Okay, a lot like us. Still growing, in spite of conditions. Still thriving in its own quirky way. Basement dweller, loner, creative in its weird but constant growth.
We’re coming up on our 25th anniversary, and this plant has been with us for about 30 years. Some good staying power there. We’d gone for five weeks on a honeymoon to Italy, and I suppose I always imagined that we’d go back to mark this one. Instead, I’m down for a 1-9 shift at work, and I’m working on my birthday that week, too. Just too many other things going on for us right now, and not organized enough to book it off ahead of time, plus I’m using up my holidays for other stuff. So, there’s romance for you. Which is fine. We’ve decided to celebrate somehow in the fall, not sure how yet.
The Jade plant is thought to “activate financial energies” and is a good luck charm. And in Feng Shui practices, placing a jade plant in a west window (which is the location of ours) is excellent for one’s creativity. So even if it’s not done a jot for our finances, I can say we’ve had a life of good luck and creativity.
As luck would have it, I came across a poem about a jade plant, not long before Rob brought up our green friend. Like ours, the plant in the poem is the ideal audience. It lives in uncertainty, but it does live.
by Timothy Russell
Some days I think this thing might be a green chorus of voices
joined in a silent medley of anguish you can almost see.
Every week there’s more. Or is it somehow on the verge of rejoicing?
Some days the plant is an ideal audience, or sentry,
listening in all directions for even the smallest hint of truth,
or relief. I know it suffers more than a little
too much water sometimes, not enough at others,
but the brown scaly patches are symptomatic of nothing
more than maturity. Despite the uncertainty,
another pair of pale and shiny ears, or mouths,
has sprouted lately. Some days the plant is the perfect gossip,
some days, an arthritic penitent with nothing to confess
but swollen with the need for discussing it anyway.
Some days this guardian at the window
whispering instructions to itself just waits,
succulent and tender as the idea of an undeclared lover.
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