As a small child, one of my clearest memories is the smell of the geranium plant mother kept on the windowsill. The pungent odor and bright coral color in the solstice of Alaska winter was fascinating to me when everything outside was a notan wash of snowbound grays. Mother’s house plants were precious to her, yet she often plucked a leaf from one of her African violets, tenderly wrapped the raw stem with damp paper and passed the gift into the outstretched hand of many newly arrived cheechako. The grateful beneficiary was equally careful of the fragile gift, tucking it under her coat before stepping out into the weather. Until recently, I didn’t understand the significance of shared starts in a time before the invasion of chain garden centers.
How the idea of caring for a living thing often gives us the spark to keep going when we’re frozen to the emotional bones.
How even the smallest spark of color can uplift a wintered over heart and inspire creativity.
How flowers help us remember a kindness.
The way our brains work, we feel physiologically the same as if the gesture is bestowed again in the present moment.
Mike gave me a couple of corms and said the plant was a “nut orchid.” A bit spindly at first, it took off and provides a largesse of blooms every spring. When the “orchid” blooms, I remember how Mike and his wife took my kids clam digging and how he mentored them to clean the catch and wouldn’t let them quit until the job was finished for all of us. I’m reminded of the blood red poppies lining his driveway and how he often dropped in unannounced to see how we were doing. I see in each floret his face and feel again his concern when he traveled many hours to be present when we buried a son.
I’ve only begun to learn the power of sharing starts.