One of my most beloved writers, Colette, teaches me the answer to the above question with every word she writes. As I, and so many of us, become—legitimately—burned and devoured by the horrors of contemporary life, her rare wit and wisdom come again and again to my aid.
She was exceptionally close to her mother, whom she called Sido, the good genius of the Provençal garden where Colette grew to maturity, and where she returned from time to time from Paris, for refreshment. To my mind, a woman, and especially a woman writer, who is close to her mother has a treasure to draw upon. There she learns the first lessons of what it means to be a woman. Among many other things, Sido taught the great value of closeness to the soil and to everything that grows.
When I saw the Century Plant blooming in my dooryard garden yesterday morning, its ten-foot stalk having shot up almost overnight (we are having wonderful rains), I remembered the letter Sido wrote to her son-in-law, Colette’s husband, turning down his invitation to come for a visit.
“You ask me to come and spend a week with you in Paris, which means I would be near my daughter, whom I adore. You who live with her know how rarely I see her and how much her presence delights me.” Still, she is turning down the opportunity, because “my pink cactus is probably going to flower. It’s a very rare plant I’ve been given, and I’m told that in our climate, it only flowers once every four years. Now, I am a very old woman, and if I went away when my pink cactus is about to flower, I am certain I shouldn’t see it again,
“So, I beg you, Sir, to accept my sincere thanks and my regrets.”
I can’t claim that my Century Plant is rare or even that it only blooms every four years, but I do believe it is blooming for me now so that, in the midst of many difficulties (none large), I will be reminded of the great, nourishing importance of living things.
[For more on my Century Plant, please see my post, The Century Plant]