The rains have begun and we have had our first flood. It’s funny – the only time the sun is not out in the Caribbean is when it is raining but that doesn’t make it less hot. The humidity is sweltering and even more so when the clouds linger. But when the sun does come out, it is with a vengeance. Wildflowers pop their heads up in the most unlikely of places. Some burst into flames in the sun, others cling to the hope of the shade. These are some of the wildflowers in my neighbourhood. They don’t scream out at the casual passerby. But if you really stop to look, they reward you with casual lowland beauty.
They deserve their own page – the flowers of St. Bess. In the words of Aunty Adne, St. Elizabeth earth rejects nothing! Another post on its own will be the food being grown in St. Bess. Keep an eye out for it in the coming days.
It is the haven where I sit with my cup of coffee in my pajamas and write for a few hours. It is my most brilliantly decorated space. It is where I can feel the breeze filter through screens and dance over petals to bring offerings of fragrance to my nose. It is my pantry and my showcase where tomatoes, parsley, dendrobium orchids and sun roses overlap like uneven partners prepared for a waltz to begin. This little piece of Eden is my very own porch garden.
So many things that a woman needs can be found on this eight-by-twelve piece of the world. Rest, birdsong, breeze, peace, puppies (always at my feet), mint, new blooms, cushions, books, lightning storms, rain, and soon to come, a hammock. But this morning I will focus only on two essentials.
Every Single Woman Needs FLOWERS.
And I don’t mean the hastily selected gas station bouquet held behind his back when he comes on his first date. I mean her very own blossomer that she teases and talks to and sings to and protects that will once or twice a year reward her with gorgeous flowers round and sweet. I am an orchid lady. My girlfriend in college was a daffodil woman. My aunt in Jamaica dwells amongst her proud ginger lilies and birds of paradise. My mother has never been able to love one flower over another and has every possible bloom she can get her hands on hanging from and propped against her trees. Pick your flower or love them all, flowers are a necessity.
Moving from the city to back home was a big change for me. I found myself in tears at the most unexpected times, I had nightmares and the silence of island life and pressures of work began to drive me crazy. One afternoon after a particularly bad night of tears and alcohol I woke up to find a white dendrobium balancing on my bedside table. My mother, helpless but relying on the power of the flower, had gone to town in search of a way to help me see past the clouds. She selected something of beauty that would change my life.
It was my first orchid. Today she is blooming in bursts of purity right next to me as I write. She is over two feet tall and makes me very proud. Several others have joined her but she is very special, my first. I learned that morning as I fawned over young blooms through tear-tired eyes that I too can blossom out of nothing but air and water. I made the decision there and then that I would be an orchid lady.
Every Single Woman Needs FOOD
Vegetables. And fruits. And roots. But how about we start with veggies.
Anyone who tries to eat healthy or, more difficult, to become a vegetarian, will tell you that it can be very expensive. Picture a supermarket cart full of fresh vegetables side by side with one full of processed chips and pastas and rices and butter and all things bad for you. The veggie cart will always be more expensive. Worse now that we are in a recession. If you are in the USA, run the experiment of shopping at the local Whole Foods store and then go do the shopping at Publix and see the difference. The grocery bill for healthy food will blow your mind.
In comes the garden. Lacy mint and proud parsley, crawling cucumbers and bright tomatoes. You decide how much to sow and how much to reap. You putter over the pots in your slippers with a watering can in one hand and your coffee in the next. All for the cost of a few seed packs and some soil you can have your own grocery cart full of vegetables.
In our strained economic times it is very easy to feed off the bottom with places like KFC and Popeyes, Wendy’s and Burger King. But you are still spending for three meals every day more than a pack of seeds and some soil for food that will not clog your arteries and take years off your life. Do it right and those seeds will be the gift that keeps on giving. Many a Single Woman has discovered for herself a green thumb she didn’t know she had until she lost her job or had financial troubles tumble down toward her.
But why wait for disaster? We have no excuse. We don’t have a husband or a boyfriend pressuring us to put greasy toe-cheese on the plate every day. Just like our financial plans need to be independent and geared toward protecting us into the future, so too should our bodies be invested in as the vehicles that take us into tomorrow. We need to keep our tyres changed and oil checks up to date – we need to eat our vegetables.
I encourage every Single Woman today – if you have a garden outdoors don’t shy away from it. If you have a patio like mine or a porch, invest in it. If you only have a window in an urban apartment, open the blinds and let light fall on something that is growing.
As my tomatoes peek out from their little seed pods I can already taste the tang of vitamins as I imagine biting into the first red fruit. I’m sure in the supermarket they will cost me up to $2 a pack. But for that amount of money I can have the all year round from my little trees.
The one thing I went outside my budget for on my Shop Like An Accountant spree was justified to me as an investment. It was a little box that promised to be my own herb garden. I figured $16 is the least I could pay for an unlimited supply of lovely smelling and tasting plants in my kitchen, no?
I wasn’t home properly yet before I was tearing open the cardboard – the little stand and the little pots were all neatly packed with soil pods and sachets of seed. Before unpacking my clothes I had put the soil to soak and stuck my finger in to make holes in the spongy damp to dump little mounds of seed into. At about midnight I put the pots on the stand out in a spot carefully chosen to get the best of the morning sun.
This morning I came outside to a great reward. Not even a week later the green shoots are fighting their way up in four of the five pots.
Not only do I have herb babies this morning, but my sunroses are peaking out at me. Tiny little suns that solicit a smile from the blackest of moods.
But best of all are my orchids. Today I found not two, not four, but EIGHT orchid spikes! My home will be bursting into bloom before my birthday. Some would believe it is my Grandmother, the orchid lady, reaching from the beyond to comfort me. I prefer to believe it is my God, using the things of beauty and the memories of meaning to get me back on track, back to his business.
New life brings new promise – be it a plant, a puppy or a child. Today I am taking all my promises in with a deep breath of fragrant garden air.
I found myself empty handed at London Bridge tube station. It was my first year in college and I was visiting Aunty. Empty handed.
It isn’t done. Not in my family. Travelling from one relative to the other gifts would be exchanged and produce from their farms and gardens would fill your car trunk for distribution with other relatives further down your journey. Scallions, tomatoes, oranges, juice, bammy, johnycakes, the first bunch of grapes for the season, flowers.
On this day, annoyed with myself for not having thought of it earlier, I popped into the flower stall and bought the first orchid. Holding it to my chest I ran for the train. It was a dendrobium.
That night Aunty would tell me off for spending my money on her, scold me for buying an orchid that she would never be able to keep alive, and smile brightly at the shocking pink sprig of blooms. On my way back to college she would stick a fifty pound note into my jacket pocket that I would find half-way to Scotland and long after I could object.
Before going to bed that night I would sit in the kitchen with Aunty as the kettle sang and wait for the hot water bottle she insisted I needed. And the cup of tea. It was always in this kitchen that I would learn the secrets of the family, and most of all my grandmother. She died when Daddy Bushlings was two years old and he struggles with the few cherished memories. He too has sat on this old wooden stool in the kitchen and peppered Aunty with questions of who he is and who she was. But on this night Aunty would share the secret of the sisters.
There were six of them and they were widely spaced in age as they are now in geography. As they filled our car trunk when we would travel through Jamaica with gifts for each other, there were always flowers. Lilies, birds of paradise, orchids, hibiscus. The colours of their secret language of sisterly love. My grandma, the first to leave the sisterhood, always brought orchids.
This morning I found four flower stalks on my own dendrobiums. They hang outside my porch in a little tree where they catch the rain and are guarded from the sun. Excited to see new life and the promise of living colour, my thoughts turn to Aunty and her speedy recovery.
From that night, what had started by accident became a tradition. Every trip I made to Aunty, as long as I could squeeze it into the student budget, I went with an orchid in hand. Now, long distance, I still go through London Bridge and make the treck to her by train carrying a phalaenopsis, dendrobium, odontoglossum or a slipper orchid. They arrive, get fussed over, I get told off for spending on her, and then they are put on the mantlepiece to be smothered to death by Aunty’s love. With each purchase I think of my grandmother long gone and the love of her sisters. And how fortunate I am to be loved by my Aunty.