Category Archives: Summer

Signs of life: watering miracles


Somehow my birthday flowers don’t get watered, only “vased” — in the mad scramble to pull off the surprise party, adding water to the vase falls low on the priority list. Days later I discover them, their parched petals mottled into a spotty disarray not unlike a child crumpled on the floor at the end of an exhausted tantrum; a tangled mess that doesn’t look anything like its original form. Still, I can’t part with them so I hang these Helianthus annuus from the shelf that holds the wine; they’ll be happy here I think. Weeks later I discover them again, note their dried perfection and start thinking about all the strange and wonderful ‘signs of life’ that have been turning up where I have been expecting atrophy instead.


This orchid has been nearly dead more than once over the past eighteen months.  After my friend Sandra (my husband’s previous wife) passes away we eventually move this plant from it’s safety on their old kitchen ledge to the home we are merging together. En route it is dropped down a flight of stairs then pieced back together, barely. The second time, looking nearly dead already, it crashes to the floor of our garage before finally making it to the kitchen, where it sits safely for nearly a year. Miraculously, having at least been watered, it grows without us noticing and then blooms on Sandra’s birthday weekend. Now it’s having babies — note the “roots” in two places that will eventually be potted separately to form new orchid “mothers.”


I’ve written about this African violet before. It’s my mother’s plant, one I hesitantly adopt in 2010 when she moves into a senior living facility.  It falls off the care radar and nearly perishes in 2013. In fact one day when Mom is on hospice care, taking the last of her 529,804,800 breaths, I am plucking the tired little clump that remains — have my fingers in its earth — when I see a bit of green. Shoving the sorry roots back into the dirt, I give it a quick water, relieved I won’t need to say goodbye to it as well, at least not just yet. You’d think that near misses would inspire me, yet all I can manage is keeping the pot filled with water (it’s the bottom-absorbing kind). Bloom food? Nope. Never. And then, a few months later, when I am forced to weed through the details of her estate, losing relationships with my brothers in the process, I see a purple flower, then another and another and another, until I realize the whole thing is covered in them; so many leaves filling the small pot that their corresponding flowers have to duke it out just to be seen. I stand in front of this striving thriving miracle, silent, reverent; tears form in the corners of my unbelieving eyes. Hi Mom, I say, grateful beyond words that she has orchestrated this brilliant mass of violet reassurance. It’s been blooming ever since, sans bloom food, and begins to bloom again today as I write this piece.


Late last March I am in the side yard, my gloves covered in the kind of muck that happens when I leave things out in the rain; things rodents love to hide under but eventually get cleaned up, when I see some green peeking out of an abandoned blue pot of what used to be the incredible lilies my mother was proud of. The last time they bloomed it was because they lived in my daughter’s yard and were cared for. When I eventually bring them home, I promptly forget about them —oh, for about two years, until this very moment when I cannot believe my eyes. Rain water is the only moisture this dirt has seen, and we’ve been having a drought for the past couple of years. I am incredulous and then urgent. It can’t stay in the midst of this dirty chaos. Getting closer, I am stunned to see about fifteen thriving leaves and three lilies nearly ready to open. The pot is heavy, so I drag it around to the front, and up two stairs to place it where it remains today. Chinese lilies, I find out, are typically given to young women on their wedding day or birthday. I am not young, but I find it meaningful that these have chosen to bloom just days away from my fiftieth birthday.

IMG_20140611_095523My son, now eleven, planted this plumeria when he was four; the take-home from a planting class at our local community center he took with his little sister. Neglected (by me) and nearly ready for the trash a few years ago, my older daughter rescues it; researching, in her typical fashion, the best way to care for these gems. It isn’t long before leaves began to sprout and she gives it back to me for continued care, which I don’t do. Nope. I neglect it, again. Though it doesn’t die, our relationship does and the poor plant is left on its own — again; a sad reminder of the state of things. The circumstances of the end of this relationship are nebulous still, at least to me, but I accept the fact that I haven’t always given my children what they’ve needed and that sometimes things fall apart; things that are my fault. Still, I place the poor plumeria on the front porch and try to remember to water it now and again. I remind myself that this poignant stalk of “holy fuck I miss her” is an organism whose cells are protected by a thick rigid wall, much like my feelings. One afternoon I discover buds. I add water and try not to hope, but a couple of weeks later I see leaves, leaves that don’t die but keep growing. They’re growing still.


I’ve successfully grown things before, but the past few years have been so busy with painful endings and intoxicating beginnings that to plant things requiring maintenance has been unthinkable. I’m ready now with a newfound confidence that surprises me; I’m not just waiting for miracles, I’m expecting them.







The Knitted Tree

Leaving Main Beach in Laguna (Laguna Beach, California), I spotted this knitted tree. Having heard and read about random yarnstorms (also called yarn bombing, urban knitting, guerilla knitting, and knit graffiti) in big cities across the globe, I was familiar with the phenomenon, which Knitthecity (London) defines as “the art of enhancing a public place or object with graffiti knitting,” but I was not prepared for the kapow of energy and unexpected intimacy I felt with the tree and its then-unknown artist. Putting down my beach gear, and hollering to friends and family that I would catch up with them in a bit, I grabbed my camera and began shooting. As I became more familiar with the wrapped branches, I fell into silent revery, the colors beckoning me to come closer, to explore.

If you click to enlarge the gallery below, you will be privy to some of the whimsical and soulful details knitted into the wraps.

As I explored further, I discovered a small plastic bag with something inside. Being careful not to tug too hard, I extracted the note, which contained words no longer legible, as rain or morning mist must have seeped inside the bag long enough to blur everything into a blue smudge. But I could read a name, or at least part of one: M i c h, and silently thanked Michelle (or Micha, Michael, or Michaella) for touching my heart at the end of a day in which I had vowed, just a few hours before, to remember to notice, to breathe deeply, and to appreciate life and it’s inhabitants even more fully than I had been doing.

A day or so later, I suggested to two sets of visiting friends that they should stop by “The Knitted Tree,” having an unidentified urgency in my gut, an unbridled desire to share the magical branches with others who appreciate random acts of beauty. Little did I know (Or did I?) that my next visit to Laguna Beach would have me standing before the same tree, only this time in its naked form. I should have felt sad at the absence, and I was surprised that the emotion I experienced instead was a fresh and unexpected kind of reverence, the kind that comes from knowing that I had serendipitously witnessed a fleeting gift, that I had received a message of hope that spoke to me regarding life’s unending challenges: There will always be something beautiful and unexpected around, literally, a random corner…and sometimes that redeeming or soothing or mind-blowing something will have been placed there by the hands and heart of someone who wanted to make me smile and celebrate my miraculous life.

Thank you Michelle Boyd and Twisted Stitchers for your Beach-umbrella-themed project, for receiving permission from the Laguna Beach Arts Commission to install your beautiful work from July 1-July 31, 2012. On July 25th, 2012, I was deeply moved by your gift. Thank you.

Thoughts and photographs are the creation and property of Britton Minor and The Jaded Lens Photography/Writing

What Begins with the Letter “Bee”

Sometimes it is not enough to enjoy nature. Simply enjoying it means that we will still be prone to indulge any fears or natural prejudices we have. Spiders, for example, can evoke great fear in the bravest of men and women, while a small child may reach down and pick one up. Bees are feared by most, held by few. Gophers are conked on the head because their 14″ teeth (growth per year) can eradicate the roots we would like to keep. Unsightly weeds are plucked because they don’t fit our theme, or look pretty enough, or because they might just take over our carefully manicured lawn.

By now most people have heard that bees are in danger and may know that pesticides are the suspected culprits. Squirt, squirt, squirt, spray, spray, spray…keep those nasty critters away. We want our fruits, flowers and vegetables to thrive, to look good. No pests! Yay! We think we have succeeded when keeping our garden in tact is as easy as pulling a trigger, when in fact, the lever we pull is killing some of the creatures we need–literally need.

Without bees, for example, we die. It sounds alarmist, but it’s true. If you already know the truth, great. If you don’t, here is more information:

I urge you to explore nature not only for its great beauty, but also because we live well because of its great provisions.