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    Volume 9 Issue 19| May 7, 2010|

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Writing the Wrong


Sharbari Ahmed

Frida Kahlo's - 'Self potrait with thorn necklace and humming-bird'.

I live in a Painted Lady Victorian that was known as “the crazy house” by one of my closest friends in college who happened to grow up a mere five minutes away, because it was painted seven different colours in the tradition of Painted Ladies. Now it is painted in various shades of blue and green and can still arguably be called “the crazy house”, but mainly because of its occupants.

I have in the back a small garden, with a lawn that has been usurped by miniscule wild strawberries and a patch of thyme. It looks like a meadow, a la, “The Sound of Music” and is a far cry from the surgically manicured lawns and flowerbeds that are characteristic of the town I live in. Like my heart, I let it grow wild and occasionally mow it back, just to keep things somewhat ordered.

I have not been sufficiently grateful for this little scrap of wilderness but one day, as I was sitting on the back porch, staring at the trees and thinking about “The ENTS” from “Lord of the Rings”, a hummingbird attacked me. Well, it flew around my head in a rage and buzzed at me in indignation when I tried to swat it away. It was ruby throated and tenacious, and decidedly not cute. After a few tense moments of diving at me and then doubling back to attack again, it disappeared into the wisteria tree. This tree has been the subject of much controversy (in my own head) because in all the years I have lived here, it only produced one pathetic stalk of flowers that lasted for a week, before throwing in the towel and withering away. My next-door neighbour suggested we chop it down as it was failing to live up to its end of the bargain and bloom into light purple blossoms shaped like tiny bells that fill the air with heady scent, and was creeping over the fence on to her property.

I felt this was far too cruel a punishment for this infraction. Like my son, who marches to the beat of his own drum (much to my deep exasperation at times), this wisteria was going to bloom (or not) when it was damn well ready. That meant I was growing frustrated with it, as I had certain expectations and it was not complying. Much like my kid. It really is astonishing how much like our parents we become as time goes on. However, I was not ready to give up on it. I have allowed it to grow with a little discipline and some abandon and it looked happy, if somewhat bare.

Neither the wisteria nor the kid are competitive. The wisteria has a clear view of my neighbour's garden, which is a riot of colour and lush foliage, but seemed satisfied with its simple green leaves and occasionally interesting vine formations. My kid is surrounded by peers who enjoy competition--sometimes healthy, sometimes not and he cannot be bothered. “If I play baseball,” he said to me one day, “I play for fun.” This is all very noble and wise for an eleven year old, but in the town he lives, no one really prescribes to that. I feel he has to be realistic about this as he is on a team and his teammates expect a certain level of competitiveness from him as well as a desire to win once in a while. Being a little competitive--in a balanced way -- is good for the soul, I feel. As long as the ego is in check and one loses gracefully. Both skills I have yet to fully master.

Painting by Linda Moncla.

I followed Capone (I named him Capone because he was such a thug) to the wisteria and searched for its nest -- I presume that is what it was guarding with such ferocity -- but could not locate it in all the brambles and vines. And then I saw it, a cluster of impending blossoms dangling from the branches. As soon as I saw that, I saw another one and yet another one still, until it became clear that the underbelly of the tree was groaning with soon to be realised flowers. It had been right there in front of me and only when I looked a bit more closely was I able to see how full it was. This moment was, and I know this may seem pathetic to some of you, especially those of you who think manic activity every weekend is exciting, ie adolescents, incredibly thrilling. It made me happy and inspired me. It gave me hope. I chose to look at the blossoms as a harbinger of a new journey or a new stage I am embarking upon. Then Capone emerged, followed by an equally cranky spouse, Eva Braun, let's just call her, and they shooed me away.

That weekend I was inspired to start planting flowers in my small garden because the wisteria's new blooms proved to me what I long hoped--that there was new life surrounding me and all kinds of fertility. I am creating a meditation space in the garden, with a fountain (eventually) and small statues and moss casually sprinkled willy nilly. Of course, I concocted an elaborate plan to recreate a Victorian cottage garden, got tired and left it half finished. But that's okay. I will add to it slowly. All in good time. That weekend also, my kid hit the ball with all his might at his game, eliciting a roar from the spectators. His coach beamed, and I was so happy because I knew he would now feel a bit more confident. He also ran a mile under nine minutes, in his first mile race that morning. He did not win the race, nor was he the fastest kid, but he was grinning right after he crossed the finish line. Like the wisteria, he will bloom when he damn well feels like it and it's really none of my business.


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