Updated: Aug 8, 2022
In the first week of April, the plants took a deep breath.
Everything budding, blooming, stretching out and smiling in the sun.
Birds chittering like mad, roots fattening up to slurp more water, the air — one with my skin.
At night, I lit candles and opened the windows wide to eat the honeyed citrus blossom perfume oozing through the screens. It was intoxicating enough to soothe me for pockets of suspended heavenly seconds.
A spiny lizard had taken up residence in the slip-ons that rested on a plank shelf outside the door. Every time I walked by with the big metal watering can, he’d play freeze frame — first trip, curled on the nose of my striped espadrilles; second trip, head perked up and staking claim of the white Vans snuggled beside them. At night, he burrowed into my shoe. In the heel, I could see his frog-like back legs flat as pancakes, his tiny dragon tail a lazy C, upper body hidden. I poked him gently with a chopstick, thinking he may have curled up and died in there. Nope. Just snoozing. He squirmed, perturbed, but didn’t turn around or leave the shoe. He greeted me as soon as I opened the door the next morning, wrapped around the toe of the white Vans, staring at me head-on. Fully realized and, what seemed like, expecting me. I couldn’t resist the photo op. When I zoomed in, the crease of his mouth formed an undeniable smile.
Chubby squirrels combed through dropped bird seed at the back of the yard. Baby lizards the length of toothpicks shot out from their dirt beds as streams from the hose pattered the garden plots. Cactus buds pushed through bristles, like miniature endives. Butterflies appeared seemingly out of nowhere. And white-lined sphinx moths the size of hummingbirds nestled themselves into the greenery, rocketing out as I peeled back the lavender to soak the roots. Plump quails darted around in pairs. Hummingbirds feasted from the coral bells of spiky aloe.
God. It was all so beautiful. Charming. Delighting me from the inside, out.
I knew I was a lucky one. I opened my doors and gazed upon green things through the metal mesh of the security screens. I was inside and outside, drinking in the bird chirps and citrus blossom air thick and sweet as marmalade, padding barefoot on smooth glazed cement the color of a brown cow. I loved this desert spring so much my heart hurt. I wanted to cling hard and keep it here, this dimension of fragrant sunshine in which nature sang, Everything is easy. Because life inside my body didn’t feel so easy. My mind held all these worries — if not money, then health, if not health, then money. And career. “Success.” Making it. Who could pay for healthcare anymore? A trip to the vet was anxiety city to begin with, and then the bill. Forgeddaboutit. This internal life could be in such sharp contrast to the natural world — what beautiful truth reality was showing me. The cyclical joy and rest, hibernation and cleansing periods of nature that called me to let go of the fear I held so tight. Which one was reality, the turmoil or ease? Was it both? One needed the other to make joyful moments that much sweeter.
As I’m gazing through the screen and typing, there’s no separation. I’m out there, in it. Enveloped in the sun-dappled shade of the adolescent oak tree. Trimming, planting, hands crusted with soil, plucking the stray cactus prick from my thumb, sipping on coconut water.
Not having to coach myself into believing I deserve to enjoy this.
Was there any truth to the stress? Or was it a complete departure from our natural state?
Could I peel away the layers of spiritual amnesia that had me feeling so anxious and alone so much of the time, detach from the human dramas and act, more or less, in bliss?
Something inside me tugged toward seriousness. Being responsible and overextending myself to keep appearances and “do good.”
Maybe it wasn’t so hard. Maybe it was enough.
Keep seeking. Open. Recuperate. Be in bloom. Reflect. Cycle through. Smile and cry. Observe and learn. Then let it be.
Inside the walls, I shouldered the heartache of a sick cat and constant financial strain.
Personal challenges with skin and weight I didn’t want to admit because I knew better, and blamed myself. Raging self-doubt. Unshakable sadness.
Through the screen and to the other side, there were blooms and birds singing. A breath of fresh air. Heaviness lifted. The determined hum of hundreds of bees busily suckling the citrus blossoms that, illuminated by the sun, glowed, supple as white satin. Their harmonic buzz tickled my cells. Plucking around the mosaic of broken terra cotta tiles cemented in by crushed granite that paved the courtyard, talking to the pansies, petting the neighbor’s tummy-up cat on the canary yellow chair, caressing my succulents . . . I could let go a little while.
In the first week of April, I constructed a time capsule in my heart so I could return to this snapshot when life got hard, unknowns reigned and a little bit of wonder went a long way.