Sometimes there’s only time for a short write at the end of my workshops (maybe 15 minutes total, for writing and reading aloud). For these “shorty-shorts” as I call them, I sometimes offer only a single word as the prompt. In this case, it was the word gratitude. Here’s what I wrote in response.
There’s something to be said for it: rain. Sinking down into the roots of the dark, already wet backyard, feeding the shiny white bulbs of the wild onions, so they continue to spread their thin green stalks out, out, out.
Tell me this: how long will it last? A week? A month? How long until a string of sunny days will beckon me to get on my knees and begin clearing the way for spring? How long before the white camellias drop and the trumpet flower demands fertilizer? Before the clover turns yellow and shrinks away?
Because I want the rain this year. I want to see the waterline at Lake Shasta rise, and I don’t care if there are mudslides that bury cars or water damage from leaky roofs. I want the rain. I’m still that melodramatic teenager who prefers to cry in the rain, asking nature to mimic my tears—I want the cliché—rain, rain, rain. Grey days and beautiful, thick storm clouds. I want lightening to flash and thunder to shake the house and wake me up. I want the sky to open up.
I am so sure I know the saddest truth that no one else believes—that I will be alone the rest of my life—and if I can inhabit it, purge it of its power to weigh me down, then I can live with it. I can live past it.
It could be so much worse, I tell my sad little heart. You could be hungry or living on the street; you could be that Safeway delivery man who slammed down the door of his truck, saying, “I hate this fucking job!” because I asked him to unblock the driveway.
“I’m sorry, man,” I said, “but I need to be somewhere.” The grocery store, actually (Safeway, ironically). Just two minutes up the hill, all those clean aisles of organized fruits and canned foods—corn, lima beans, mango chutney in a glass jar—anything you want. And you pay without worry, with a gold card you slip through a narrow slot. Anything you want.
Meanwhile, your sister is cashing in her IRA to pay property taxes, the heart you broke is sitting at home wondering why, and people in Haiti are buried under rubble, waiting for death or rescue. And you want to cry over an empty bed and sore knees?
Go ahead. Cry. Get it out of you system, little red heart. Because like it or not, spring does eventually come bursting forth, and empty bed or no, you’ll be caught up in the blossoming beauty of it, dreaming of climbing roses, making plans for ground cover.
Against all odds, you will plant flowers. They will grow.