The prompt this time was flowers. I passed a selection of flowers around the room and asked everyone to take a minute with each one, to really see each one, then to pass it to the person on his or her right. The flowers I choose may vary, but the usual are: a Japanese cherry blossom branch, a Cecile Brunner rose, a magnolia blossom, a daisy, a calla lily, jasmine, lilac, a daffodil.
Writing in response to flowers brings up all kinds of interesting themes: death, birth, sex, love. My piece is below, preceded by a Georgia O’Keeffe quote I read out loud as all the writers sit with their first flower.
“Nobody sees a flower –really — it is so small it takes time –we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like having a friend takes time.”
Spring in California
Magnolias the size of dinner plates, salad plates, dessert bowls, fragrant cream and lilac. Jasmine popping out on a vine along the back fence. Tulip bulbs reaching their leaves up toward the sun. Cherry blossoms like a cloud of pale pink lace.
“Who are you going to Vancouver with?” my sister asks.
“I’m going alone.”
“You should have told me. I could have gone with you.”
In Vancouver, it’s been raining. March is not the prime time to visit. The ten-day forecast flashes up on my computer screen: Rain. Clouds. 50 degrees during the day, 37 degree at night. My heart sinks.
All of the images I’ve seen of Vancouver show blue skies with mountains in the distance. Warm, sunny beaches, and towers rising into clean air at the blue water’s edge.
I make a list:
Pack gloves and hat
Buy a travel umbrella
“If I wasn’t in rehearsal for this play,” my sister continues, “I’d come with you.” She is walking her Golden Retriever, talking on her cell phone. I imagine her rounding a corner filled with purple crocuses, a spray of yellow daffodils with orange mouths against a white house behind her.
“Well,” I say, not wanting her to come, but suddenly feeling lonely, “it’s the new me: comfortable in my solitude,” and I sound like my older brother, the one we forget about sometimes, and then remember sadly.
The lilac tree in the neighbor’s yard is blooming too early this year. A cone of lavender and purple juts out above the stark grey branches. It’s a very old tree. It’s dying, I think, the cell phone getting hot against my ear.
I absent-mindedly press the fingertips of my free hand into the soil of the tiny orange pot sitting on my kitchen window ledge. I bought the pot at an art fair three weeks ago; there are bright yellow sunbursts painted on its sides. The basil seeds I planted in it aren’t sprouting. And outside, the grey sky threatens to rain.
“So? Are you dating anyone?” she asks.
I cannot tell you how much I dread that question.
“No,” I say, wishing just once that I had a different answer.
I imagine myself sloshing through the cold rain in the streets of Vancouver.
And I’m wondering if the forty gladiolus bulbs I planted last month are going to rise up and out of the earth like beautiful aliens.