WHY GERANIUMS BLOOM
PSYCHOLOGY AND CHOICE
For those of you new to my work, I have been participating in a daily writing practice for nearly five years. What started as writing three things I’ve learned each day became the project THESE THREE THINGS and was published into a daily practice writing guide and journal by the same name in 2018. While I continue to write each day, the writing has evolved into something different as of late. No longer do I write three things I’ve learned each day. Sometimes it is one. And more recently I have been writing essays that I work on each day and finish at the end of the week. Subscribers to my newsletter receive my new daily writings as part of the project each Sunday. - You can find the link to join the list in the details of this episode. One essay in particular focused on a psychological theme I have been thinking a lot about lately. What follows is a reading of my entry for THESE THREE THINGS from a particular week, including my musings on not feeling like I have anything to write, as these moments are probably more important than the moments I know exactly what to write. One of my favorite psychoanalysts,, Marion Milner, who was also an artist, wrote extensively on what we now call flow. Her book titled , On Not Being Able to Paint published in 1950, is a study on the act of creativity, focusing on what is present when we can create and when we cannot, of course from a fascinating psychoanalytic perspective. The cliffs note of course being that the times we are unable to create,, are as equally if not more significant than the moments we find ease in our creative process. The same goes for all the times we are stuck in any process. Being stuck is not in the way of the process, but part of the process and a really important part at that. So, here’s my own experiment on not being able to write. Or thinking I had nothing.
April 20, 2021
I didn't write any entries for this project this week until Friday. It was one of those weeks where everything else took precedence. Or I let it. Weeks like this make me wonder if that means I no longer need this practice as much as I did, or if I need it so badly, that I pushed it aside as far as I could so I didn't have to spend these moments with myself each day. I imagine both could be true.
If I am to honor the writing I actually wanted to do this week, the idea came about on Tuesday before bed. In my mind more of an essay or a short story than a series of entries. My favorite part of any creative endeavor, the place where I find joy, is that a birth happens when it is going to happen. I've learned that trying to organize that birth into a specific time, or for it to result in a certain way, fights the most powerful aspect of the creative process. The moment when many hours, sometimes lifetimes combine to put together experience, inspiration, watching, listening, all into an act where it comes out. When we discover what the ingredients we have been collecting bake into.
So instead of all the usual things that proceed - the structure of my practice, the expected structure of these weekly emails, this week I give you a single story."
WHY GERANIUMS BLOOM PSYCHOLOGY AND CHOICE
We purchased our sunny mountain top home from the family who built it in 1952. The husband was an architect and the couple themselves must have been somewhat adventurous creatives. In the early 1950's Fairfax was still mostly a summer destination. The streets and mountains lined with small little weekend cottages, no bigger than a few hundred square feet. Tucked close next to each other with modest backyards for neighbors to share barbecue grills and laundry lines.
Our home was one of the early houses in town built to nest an entire family all year round. The family raised four children in this sturdy house. Hard to imagine. Larger than the cottages that surround it, yes, but difficult to picture two grown adults and four children filling the walls and hallways of our home. I often think about what it must have been like to have four children crowded into our knotty pine kitchen leaning over cereal bowls at breakfast.
The plants and trees that surround the close perimeter of our house very much reflect a 1950's aesthetic. Juniper and oak trees, rosemary and beautiful bunches of bright red geraniums. The geraniums grew quite easily the first few years we tended to them. But as California became a landscape of fire and ash, the bright blooms have become finicky. I credit my mother for bringing them back after the ash last year. She trimmed them all back and cared for them throughout two winters so that they could offer beautiful blooms again this year. It's not that the rest of us had given up on them. We just recognized that asking a geranium that was planted nearly 70 years ago, to easily exist in the current climate, was a very tall order. If we were asking too much, we understood.
Just a few days ago, the geraniums reached their peak. Bright red, round blooms the size of grapefruits opened atop each bunch. They all came back. Every single bloom. It brought us a moment of hope. That things survive. Current conditions might require more care, but still, things survive. And that was some welcome reassurance.
On Tuesday morning, in our front yard, across from the geranium bushes, a mother doe emerged from a set of low lying juniper trees with a brand new baby fawn. We watched as the fawn struggled to walk on the uneven bricks leading to our driveway. The mother licked the fawn from head to toe, nursed it and after about 30 minutes or so they made their way back to a small hiding place nestled between a rocky path and a set of juniper bushes that canopy over a cool shaded area of granite and dirt.
It was the first time in the last two years we have had a fawn born on our property. It happened three years in a row, then it was quiet. We wondered if we would ever welcome a resting mother and her fawn again. And then magically they appeared on Tuesday. We name the deer when this happens, as we become very attached to watching the babies grow and take pride to not disturb the doe as she rests. These two would be named Billie and Justice. Accountability gives birth to Justice. This seemed right for this particular Tuesday.
As most mothers, a doe requires rest after birthing. She moves slowly, with great intent and eats. Everything. It wasn't 24 hours later that the doe helped herself to nearly each and every geranium bloom that had presented itself in the last week. She bit them off the stems like they were small little grapes. Chewing and swallowing, in an instant.
As I watched her I very much understood the moment of choice. Not big choice, like where to live, or what do for a living. But the subtle choices we make each moment that paint themselves into the core of our character. How we might frame something as unlucky or take a comment out of anger deeply personally.
Do we imagine that the geraniums came back this year to serve this very moment? To be broken off their stems by a hungry doe recovering from labor? Or do we imagine that the geraniums exist only for us and they are being taken away? That something is being done to us.
You might imagine the choice we made as we watched in silence as the doe went from bloom to bloom. Perhaps, I wondered, these geraniums held purpose. Planted here by the architect and his wife. Their children just babies with hands in the dirt. All of them wondering about the day in the far off future that these geraniums would bloom for exactly this moment.
Thank you for being here.
Listen to this episode of JOY IS NOW here.