Sunday, November 24, 2013
It was my happy place. I made it so, with a lot of help from my friends.
You'll remember the agony of building the Groanhouse.
and then when it was finally done and stocked with plants and it looked like it was all going to work, it became The Greenhouse.
Recently I strung it with little white fairy lights and every evening before dinner I'd go down there with Chet, sometimes with Bill, and just soak it in. It was my retreat, and it could fix me when nothing else could. Everyone needs a place like that.
It had to do with everything growing and blooming and scenting the air.
Like tuberoses, ten of them, saved while still in bud from the freezing garden, and now perfuming nightly in the salubrious confines of the little greenhouse.
It was aromatherapy, it was beyond marvelous, and I made it all myself.
I didn't go to a spa and pay somebody a bunch of money for all that. I just made my own spa.
Chet loved it too. This is about my favorite view, the plants between his sweet ears as he sits and meditates on my lap in the evening.
So the night of November 23 Bill and I talked down there for over two hours and we got a few things kind of understood, just sitting in that healing air and taking in the beauty. It was so cold outside, but so warm and humid in there.
It looked like this. And this morning when we got up it looked like this.
The gas line that runs from our well to the house had water in it, and that water froze overnight, blocked the line, and the gas cut off somewhere after 2 AM.
When I opened the door it was 21 degrees in there. Everything was frozen solid.
At 21 degrees, a New Guinea impatiens that looks like this
and a hibiscus that makes your heart sing every time you see it
so full of beautiful blossoms and buds for months ahead
goes to this
and a tuberose does this
My world crashed around my ears and I howled like a wolf for a long, long time
until Bill told me I had to pull myself together and I said I do not and stomped out to the orchard in the bitter cold to howl out there awhile longer where nobody could tell me it was all going to be OK because nothing was OK. And nothing is OK. It stinks, that fetid stench of leaves dying green, that stench you get after a hurricane or the first hard frost of the season.
And while I was out there in the orchard a little voice spoke to me and told me to get back in there and start pruning. It was my primitive voice, and I listen to it when it speaks.
I don't know if there's scientific fact behind it but the voice told me that bad chemical messages would travel back down those stems from the dying tops and kill the roots, too. And I had better get those tops pruned way back if I was going to save anything in the greenhouse.
So I rushed back and got clippers and what had looked like this
got thrown out or pruned back to this
and a great pile of death stacked up on the floor
months and years of love and care and growth
night blooming jessamine and mandevilla and geranium and jasmine and tuberose and impatiens and lobelia and hibiscus just reduced to limp dead junk in a few hours while we slept.
I cut everything that was limp or squishy off. I cut until I got to firm stem, and now all I can do is hope.
I have pots full of dead looking sticks. But you never know. Even though the soil was frozen solid in the pots, maybe some survived.
I made an ICU in the living room, because the gas went off again while I was working. I didn't want those who had survived the apocalypse to have to go through it again. Oh God. Please. We bled the drip valve twice, Bill re-lit all the pilots...Please don't shut off again.
The sum total of the living plants. The rest remain to be seen.
Actually the three hibiscus babies on the left are probably dead. But I'm not throwing them out yet.
I don't know what inner fire kept Vesuvius alive, but it was the only thing that looked alive when I came in this morning.
I was so relieved to find this newly rooted cutting of my dearly beloved Vancouver Centennial still firm and alive.
It will come back, some of it anyway, but it won't be lush and beautiful in there again for a very long time. Where once there were blossoms, now there are sticks and bones.
If my happy place is gone, I'll have to figure out something else that will save me, probably working even harder on the paintings for my next book. I'll run farther. I'll keep going down to the greenhouse to look for signs of life. And you'll be the first to know when I find some.