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The Bougainvillea Plant

*** Hope ***

My lovely bougainvillea plant died the same time my mother did.  Coincidence perhaps?  Not to me.  Most people know I share Wayne Dyer’s view that there are no coincidences in the universe. One might insist the plant died because we were in Europe for 2 weeks and not home to water and care for it.  But I saw it differently.

Where healthy green branches and vibrant colored petals had been, now there were only brown shriveled up sticks and crumpled paper leaves. Every time I crawled in and out of bed and looked out my bedroom window, I was reminded of death and loss, both on a simple and deeper level.

I had been so proud of that bougainvillea and how it had been flourishing.  In Southern California, bougainvilleas seem to grow all over the place.  I have always loved them – their beautiful colors, how they make me think of a tropical vacation and plenty of sunshine, and how they can (just in their very being) brighten up a wall or patio cover or even the side of the freeway.

“They grow like a weed,” my mom would say. “They can just take over if you let them.”  But mine never did.  Much to my disappointment, even in sunny Los Angeles, my bougainvilleas never ran rampant.  Some years they did well, some years they died with the first major frost of what we called winter.  I would have gladly let them take over the garden if they had tried and just pretended I lived in a Spanish hacienda.  But alas, it was not meant to be.

Living in Northern California, I find them even trickier.  This was my second attempt with one after a long period of resigning myself to the fact that the climate up here was just different and some plants did in fact do better in the warmth and the heat.  Yet, at some point last year, I forgot all that and optimistically gave it another go.  And this time, it was going!  Going strong, doing well!  Every morning as I lifted my head off my pillow, I saw how the buds were forming, how the vines were stretching.  It was beginning to look like a mass to be reckoned with!  I was thrilled.  I left for Europe feeling confident it would survive my absence.  (Just as I had thought about my mom.)

Why haven’t I chucked the old dead thing by now?  Most people would have.  Who would want to look out and see its pathetic brown remains each day?  Who would choose to have a daily reminder of what is gone from one’s life?  I almost felt the plant had shriveled up in grief and despair, feeling as sad as I was that my mother had died. That it too recognized there had been a great loss here – and what else was there for it to do?

For whatever reason, I wasn’t ready for tossing it.   Besides there was too much else to tend to right away…disposing of my mother’s things, settling her affairs (still working on that one), writing thank you notes for the condolences.  The dead plant in the corner of the upstairs deck was not a top priority of mine (nor of my husband’s either thankfully as I have yet to get flack from him about it).

Last week I went out on the deck to water the plants and I poured a little water on the bougainvillea planter too.  Not sure why – but I don’t question all my motives these days.  A few days later I just happened to notice some green intermixed with all that brown.  New leaves. A whole new green branch, popping up with authority as if it had every right to be there.  I was shocked.

My scraggly stick tree is now one I’m trying to bring back from the brink.  Not sure it will make it – or that I have the energy to try.  But, once again this Zen Mama Wannabe is convinced that it is a sign.  “Who knew you could get so much meaning out of a plant,” my husband remarked.  “I just wonder…how will you do if it doesn’t survive this SECOND time through?”  I don’t bother to answer, as I don’t have one to give.  I just pull out the watering can and admire the green.  There is hope.

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5 Responses to “The Bougainvillea Plant”

  1. Lauren Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Grow, little plant, grow!

  2. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks, Lauren. “It” needs all the help it can get!

  3. callieandbatido Says:
    September 7th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I had a house plant about 15 years ago that was one sad branch with a few leaves. It never grew any more leaves or got any better but then it never died either. I just couldn’t bring myself to give up on it. I even went so far as to give it a name “Dirk”. Dirk moved with me to four different parts of the state, never changing. And one day I looked over and he had three, not two leaves. I was thrilled. Four years after buying him at the grocery store, he became a beautiful plant and the pride of my kitchen. Keep the faith.

  4. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    September 7th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Four years (and many moves) is a long time to keep the faith! All right – you’re really motivating me now! I’ll keep trying – though just like with your “Dirk” I feel it has less to do with what we do (as long as we provide the basic care) and more to do with other mysterious factors that I still just don’t understand. (Congrats to both you and Dirk, by the way)!!

  5. LarkLady Says:
    September 23rd, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I remember the bougainvillea flowers scattered on the ground at your wedding, so I suspect that they have several layers of meaning for you! I don’t have any in my yard now — I spent too much time chopping ours back at the last house to want them in the yard again. But I sure enjoy looking at other people’s, with their variety of colors from deep red to purple to orange and pink. Hot, sunny colors that liven up one’s day.

    Nurture yours. They don’t ask for much. And if they don’t completely take over, they add a nice spot of color.

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