Monday, June 11, 2012

Ars longa, vita brevis

Art is long, life is short. 

Life is probably shorter if you're a plant in my house. My husband has the green thumb, and I have two opposable thumbs. I'll do whatever you tell me to do with plants, but I don't have that instinct and drive to plant bulbs, collect annuals and do all those things you're supposed to do in spring and falls. However, I do find pulling weeds very meditative though. 

An aunt in Canada gave us a jasmine plant root to plant. She's an avid gardner and her jasmines were growing fabulously and she had enough to share. Her front porch smelled like "raat ranis" (jasmines that bloom at night). So,we smuggled the root across the border and planted it in a pot. And, that baby bloomed! My husband put it in the bathroom, where it would get moisture and humidity it needed, and it lasted 2 years. There would be a blossom or two every few days during the summer. 

I was inspired! I wrote the poem below and shared it at a book reading in January.

I'm not sure what happened this winter/spring, but the jasmine plant didn't make it. I tried this week to resuscitate it by repotting it with Miracle Gro, as advised by the aunt. But my husband's telling me it's dead and to get over it. I still think we should give it a fighting chance though I do think

Thus, here's a poem to remember smuggled jasmine plant.

Scent Memory
The white jasmines bloom at night in the summer,
just three precious blossoms at a time.
The plant was a gift and the bathroom is the best spot to capture moisture.
So it sits in a terracotta pot on the edge of the beige soaking tub.
The slightly open window allows summer wind to freshen the space.

As I open the bathroom door, the aroma of fresh jasmine mixed with humid air
whisks me to Ahmedabad, India,
stirring memories of a childhood evening.

We were family meeting for the first time,
making instant connections without the customary formalities
and introductions. They knew us already.
Aunts, uncles and cousins were excited
to show off their world to the crisp American children.

We take a stroll in the warm June evening for ice cream.
The Queens of the Night are in bloom and we’re wrapped in a fragrant air.
We pass other bungalows in the neighborhood. The bushes in the large compounds
are sprinkled with delicate red and white flowers.

At the ice cream stand, we mill around and read the flavors on the white board
under the stark fluorescent lights.

We’re confused, looking for comfort in a mint chocolate chip,
but we choose from flavors that leave a ambrosial tastes in your mouth
when you say them aloud.

Saffron pistachio
Rose and cardamom
Cashew and raisins
Tutti frutti

Mosquitoes and moths hover around the lights.
We dance and wave them away. Uncles joke about “moth flavors”
when one nosedives into a cup and tease us with a mosquito option.
I scribe this adventure into a journal,
complete with a sketch of the insects and the ice cream.

As a lively group, our voices rise and we kick up dust along the footpaths
returning to my grandparents house.
When a breeze does arrive, it doesn’t break the heat,
but tropical trees rustle and the swing in front yard rocks gently.

I turn off the bathroom light and close the door, leave that memory inside
where it belongs with the jasmine blossoms.

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