Tonight I took my last creative nonfiction class through the Indiana Writers Center (through Zoom, of course). It was a wonderful, warm group. We shared our vulnerability and sadness through our stories. When the pandemic ends, I look forward to meeting up with my classmates in person.
This writing class was a bright spot in an otherwise terrible year. So were Zoom parties, crafting, reading, and working from home with my silly dog and sweet husband. This blogging community has brought so much solace. As time passes, I’m not sure how I’ll remember this year, or even how much of it. There are chunks of time, weeks and months, that already are a haze. In a decade, this year might be a black hole. But when I think back on 2020, I already envision myself walking through a field of Queen Anne’s Lace on a sunny day, like I did during so many of our hikes. Hiking and camping saved me.
To close out the year, I thought I’d share a piece I wrote last month for my class. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you might recognize where I got my title. I hope you enjoy. Whatever your plans are for the New Year, stay safe. I’ll see you on the other side. Good riddance, 2020.
Bloom Where You’re Planted
An aloe vera plant sits on my kitchen countertop. I bought it when we first moved to Indiana, when I was filled with the headiness of trying to decorate a space that didn’t feel like mine. If I can call myself a plant mom, then I’m a very neglectful one. Most of the succulents on my window sill came with me when I moved from Austin. They are infrequently watered and often forgotten about. Somehow these plants cling to life, despite my general indifference to theirs. During our last winter in Austin, I’d forgotten to bring one of them inside during one of the few freeze warnings we’d had that year. The winds had knocked the succulent over and I left it there for several days. When I decided to see if it was still alive, I noticed that tendrils had grown from its stem on its side, trying to find nourishment. The plant still lives today, the tendrils there a reminder of my negligence.
But none of my sad Austin succulents have the vivacity -and, dare I say, the sheer nerve – of my aloe vera plant, living its best life in 2020. The plant is so large now that it takes up nearly the entire countertop. Its stems spread widely as if it wants a hug, taunting me when I head downstairs for my morning coffee. It says, “Look at me! Despite your best efforts to forget my existence, I’M GOOD. I’M THRIVING! HOW’S IT GOING WITH YOU?”
My husband and I met a couple at a Harvest Festival last year. We were still very homesick and eager to talk about Texas any chance we had. The woman told us she was from New York City and had lived in Indianapolis for 20 years. “Bloom where you’re planted,” she told me, and it’s a phrase that I repeated to myself many times. Bloom where you’re planted, I whispered as I drove in snow for the first time. As my husband and I spent our first Thanksgiving without our families. When I set up my home office back in March when it wasn’t safe to go into the downtown office anymore. When I realized that the year I’d envisioned for myself wasn’t going to happen.
And then there is my aloe vera, sitting happily in its chipped “You had me at aloe” planter. My sad little succulent with the tendrils on its stem, a little scarred but standing tall. Even under adversity, they bloom.