An Open Letter to Francie, the Bonsai Tree in the Athenaeum,
I knew it would come to this. I rejoiced when you arrived, so green and optimistic and unexpected, and I was so grateful to your sender, a friend whose support for my creative pursuits is boundless. I vowed with the best that was in me to nurture your verdant life energy, to talk to you and sing to you and honor you as a talisman for personal expression, and as the mascot of the Room of My own I for which I had so long pined.
But now you’re dead.
You are dry, irreparably ruined, and looking like a pitiful twisted, leafless twig from some Danny Elfman universe. Against all odds and my own personal history with plants, you showed some early potential. You held on through the summer, and then, with the coming of autumn, with the explosion of my schedule and the loss of my focus on home and hearth, you gave up. You quit me, and I’m trying hard not to take it personally. I recognize my responsibility for your fragile potted life, but I forgot you, and you keeled over and died in dramatic protest.
I blame myself completely. Your tragic demise is an apt metaphor for the loss of my life essence that grabs me by the throat every spring. And, you know, it’s ironic, because I’m actually feeling more fortified than I usually feel in the fall, but all of my energy is devoted elsewhere. What I have left after teaching sixth grade all day, and peppily directing a classic musical at night, is going to my children…to be more precise, to their laundry, and whatever I can throw into the crockpot. And as it turns out, when I get home at 8 and clean out the backpacks and put on my sweats, all I really want to do is sit on the couch with Patrick and watch Modern Family. My creativity points for the day are all used up, and I just want to sit down.
I have spent no more than business-like passing moments in the Athenaeum since school began, wandering in to find a purple marker or put a book on the shelf or to open or close the futon for the girls so they can watch a movie. I bought autumn Home-Sweet-Home candles for this fall that have yet to be lit, and my fainting couch, from which I intended to sit and watch the oak leaves fall, is currently covered with a pile of winter coats unpacked from storage that I haven’t yet had a chance to hang in the hall closet.
But, hey, the fact that I managed to unpack the winter coats is something, isn’t it? And the fact that my children are fed and clothed and generally wearing clean underwear is a comfort. And I’m getting better at snagging moments throughout the work day to nurture myself creatively, wherever I can. As I thought up this very blog entry, I was sitting at rehearsal while Pam staged the Crapshooters Ballet. My only job is to run the CD for her, and rather than tapping my foot and thinking of all of the other things I should be doing, I made the grocery list, figured out the plans for snacks and crafts and games for Abby’s little Halloween gathering with her schoolfriends on Friday, cropped a bunch of photographs, fine-tuned the rehearsal schedule for this week, and looked up a bunch of point values for snacks on the Weight Watcher ap on my phone.
That was four days ago. Now, it is Wednesday night, and I am actually here. It’s too late for the once-pert little Francie the Bonsai tree, but the fact that I can sit here now…that I carved out the time today…shows that the possibility of creating something, even in the autumn, still exists. This makes me wonder if perhaps there is still a shoot of green somewhere in this pretty plant, and that if I bring it to school tomorrow, my Shaman of a teaching partner might be able to coax it back to life…
Never give up.