Saturday, October 18, 2008

Solitude vs. Loneliness, and Creating A Fertile Foundation To Begin Our Long Journey To The Stars...

"Loneliness is the poverty of self;

solitude is the richness of self."

~ May Sarton ~

"What is needed is, in the end, simply this:
solitude, great inner solitude. Going into
yourself and meeting no one for hours on
end~that is what you must be able to do."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet ~

"If seeds, in the black earth, can turn into such
beautiful roses, what might not the heart of
man become in it's long journey to the stars."

~ G.K. Chesterton ~

My Favorite Rose, among very many in my
garden ~
Crepuscule ~ a very old Southern

I am writing to you again on yet another grey, rainy Saturday afternoon, this one, if it's possible, is even more peaceful and precious than the last. Long past the early morning routines and care of the dozen cottage animals, the dogs having been out not long ago, are now all sleeping, with soft puggy snores and my silent gentleman, Moe, lies quietly beside me. I listen to the stillness, and the air around me feels soft.

The question I am most often asked -- and I've mentioned this here before -- is "Don't you get lonely living alone?" The questioner poses this question based on thinking of me, as most have all of my life, as the married mother of three home-schooled children with a lively active household. Since my divorce, my children grown and off into their own lives, they see me adrift in a sea of loneliness with no one to talk to, and imagine me terribly lost. My answer to the above question is always the same: "I might be, if I had the time."

I always think this such a funny question because everyone who knows me well knows that I live with six parrots, five dogs, and Vincent, the beta fish, but since they are not "people" they seem to be discounted in most people's minds, or just more trouble than anyone should have to handle in the minds of others. They do not realize that caring for my precious companions is no chore at all, not the feeding, cleaning up after, giving medications and treatments to (I adopt the ill/infirm/or the elderly.), but provides a companionable silence, more love than one ought to be blessed with in a lifetime, and riches beyond compare. No, I am not lonely. I have come to the point in my life, at 54, where everything that came before helped prepare the fertile ground into which I now plant myself to grow. The solitude, the silence, provide rich compost, and I am growing and thriving. Too, I seek communion with all living, growing things, things most people wouldn't imagine.

Everyone knows that I am a longtime avid gardener, garden photographer, and garden writer. I have planted gardens everywhere I have lived, and in the garden at the house where I raised my children I planted 60 old fashioned, own-root roses, grown organically of course. I planted countless perennials, annuals, and flowering bushes and trees, and my husband planted a grape arbor, which I used for climbing roses on each end, and wisteria grew up through old trees at the back where the shade garden was. I plant English cottage gardens, topsy turvy, lush, too much which is quite enough, perfect in it's way. I crave color and fragrance and need it as much as the air that I breathe.

And yet... the tiny things I bring indoors to tend are just as precious to me, along with my ever growing collection of African violets. My grandmother grew the most beautiful violets. They were everywhere in her little apartment after Grandpa died. For some time now I have been rescuing violets. (Leave it to me to rescue anything that nobody else wants!) You know in the grocery store the basket with the little pots of violets, blooms long gone, and the poor little plants looking raggedy and half dead. I've bought all I could bring home the last few years (at about 50 cents apiece instead of the $4-5 blooming plant), and nursed them back to health. One can't rush an African violet. They grow slowly, but in the end you are rewarded with the most beautiful, almost heartbreakingly tender little plants. I have now moved into ordering leaves of rare varieties. They will take years to grow into lush plants, but where am I going? Why is the world in such a rush, always? The "I want it, and I want it NOW," attitude simply doesn't apply here. We live in a fast food world whose inhabitants have come to expect that if you can't have it fast it's not worth having. That would never play here. I will wait years for my little violets to grow, and I have been richly rewarded.

Little grocery store foundlings, most having
grown quite large already. These are planted
in some of my collection of vintage teapots.(I
especially love vintage enamelware.) They
have already bloomed and will bloom again
when they are good and ready!

This violet, once a grocery store orphan, has

grown roughly five times it's original size, and
blooms like mad almost all the time. This is the
second blooming in a very short time, and the
previous blossoms were in such abundance
took my breath away!

One of my new rarer violets,
'Whirligig Star.'
The tips are pinker than you can see in the
picture and it is so lovely. These are just now
getting a good start. Such a delight to an open
heart, where small things bring the deepest

When 'Neon Violet Meteor' started to bloom
it absolutely shot me up over the moon! When
this violet is a large plant it will be a show-
stopper! Just imagine...

I am quite proud of what I have accomplished in this last year. Last summer I bought the most outstandingly beautiful coral colored pot of impatiens with a tiny dot of yellow at the center. Most people treat impatiens here as annuals. It is said that they will not grow indoors. I have sadly seen beautiful impatiens die off in frosts for too many years. Last year, on the eve of our first frost, I boldly brought my gorgeous plant in, and immediately planted the mother plant in a bigger pot with fresh soil, put her in a sunny window, and kept her watered and fed as needed. Not only did she flourish, and bloom ceaselessly, but all winter into early spring I took countless cuttings which root quite easily in water, and finally, with a great many rooted cuttings, made another basket of impatiens. They have grown so big and flourished so beautifully over this summer, they will soon come in before the first frost once more and will turn into a great many new plants in the year to come. I have also done the same with one of my beloved fuschias, but I didn't get them in fast enough and one died, the other having but a few living branches. I brought them in, nipped off the living bits, babied and nurtured them, and I have one little basket of a deep purple with brilliant pink bells and cream tips in a small basket hanging above my kitchen sink. It is small yet but has had several lovely little blossoms. I stuck the remaining sprigs in with the impatiens and they have grown well. They, too, will have offspring this year.

The mother plant, at least 4 times larger
than last year's nursery plant...

Her baby plant, now getting unruly, which
began as a great many tiny sprouted cuttings
planted in one pot and put outside late spring.
The baby is about to get a good shaping and
will gift me with many babies for new plants,
as will her mother...

Ah, but my newest experiment is just the most incredible delight to me, and most of you will perhaps think me silly. Weeding my patio plants tugs at my heart, because the little plantlets of who knows what, for the most part, are living, growing things as well, but weed we must. However, in a giant barrel that holds an enormous aloe plant which I use readily for burns and other applications, an abundance of clover seems to like to grow. They look like tiny magical little plants and you can just imagine a wee little Leprechaun hiding underneath the sprawling green leaves. I gently lifted a number of them out, brought them in, and planted them in a tiny old teapot whose lid is long gone, and they are flourishing on my kitchen windowsill. I have just cut them back because they were tall and hanging over. Just imagine! I might, at some point, find a four leaf clover! I am about to go bring in a great many more and start another pot or three before the cold comes and they are gone. These tiny plants are fairy plants, full of magic, and I can dream looking at them while I stand at my kitchen window washing dishes. This is what living alone in the beauty of silence and grace does for one. It opens one's heart, and vision so much wider that it is possible to see and hear and delight in things that others pass by, or toss out with disregard. As Annie Dillard wrote, "Everything, every possible thing, is holy." Yes Annie, you are so right. A rock, a lizard, a tiny bright green tree frog, a bumpy little brown toad hidden in the leafy wet garden, a snoring pug, a grey parrot on your shoulder nuzzling your cheek, a dear old book, like a long lost friend, once found again is a grand reunion. Am I lonely? How could I possibly be? I am filled with reverence, and gratitude, for all of the daily miracles around me, full of potent possibility abundant.

Can you see the tiny leprechauns
hiding in the leaves? I hear them
whispering when the lights are out.

As I took the dogs out before night fell, I was dazzled by the blooms on this mandevilla. I'd thought it had died last year, and it started growing very late. It will be full of blooms just as frost hits, and it will die back down, but I will wrap it this year to give it a better start next spring. Isn't it lovely?

And while the dogs were meandering about I took an armload of cuttings from the pothos plant. This, too, is a wonderful story because right after I moved in here, in April of 2002, I found, again in a sale basket in the grocery store, a brightly painted mug with adorable cheery snails painted on each side holding a little pothos plant in it. Well, I brought it home (The mug is beside me here on the table filled with Prismacolor colored pencils!), repotted it, and then had to keep repotting it, as the vines grew all over the inside of the cottage. It was enchanting. Betwixt and between the vines draped everywhere were little starry twinkly lights, and it was a sight to dream on. Alas, a big white bird named Blossom, the Greater Sulfur Crested cockatoo, came here to be rehabilitated and found a home with me, and in the process, her cage being a little too close to where the pot sat, she nipped off the bottoms of the long vines. I actually cried, then picked myself up, dusted myself off, and my friend Jeff helped by replanting the plant in a half barrel that nearly took over the world outside. I brought in the cuttings and made several vases full and filled an old vintage coffeepot to overflowing with these magical vines. Magic never dies! It just gets repotted or put in water to root!

And then of course there's the bamboo. I once, about 3 1/2 years ago, bought a tiny little bundle of sprouted bamboo shoots, a handful only 3 inches high. They have taken over the place in every kind of bottle (in water), in the beta fish bowl, and in just about everything you can imagine. Some are four feet tall!

These have grown, in cobalt blue wine
bottles, in water, from my counter to
the top of my kitchen ceiling around
the sink on both sides. Such a glory!

This little bamboo plant
is planted in dirt in a very
dangerous spot! Flamingo

Finally, our lives are what we make of them. For me, the glass is always more than half-full and I look at the world through rose-colored glasses. And no, I'm no ostrich with my head stuck in the sand. I've watched the debates, I'll be voting, I know that wars rage on in the world, hunger, poverty, disease, and more, and that has always been so and always will, sadly, but I believe that if we do what we can, in our own small corner of the world, we can spread great joy, kindness, love and, yes, a bit of magic that will light the way, not only for ourselves, but those around us. If we all try we can light the world and each, in our own way, make the world a better place to be.

It is in the spirit of gratitude, to you, dear reader, for even being here to share these thoughts with me, that I shall close. I will go in and look out of my kitchen window, and gaze and dream and let my thoughts collect like raindrops in a rain barrel, and after I've eaten my late supper, I will tip the barrel and more words will flow onto the page as I work on my book, sleeping animals around me, and sink into the spaciousness of this peaceful Saturday night. I have meandered through the day writing this piece. It has accompanied me on my journey through this day. Now I will peer out through my kitchen windows, and see what I can see.

Have a beautiful week ahead. The little ones and I will be thinking of you, and if you feel an airy brush of silky warmth wrap around you for a second and then whisk away, you will know that you have just been touched by the prayers and loving energy I send out to everyone everyday. Each one, reach one. Prepare a fertile ground, and grow like wildfire...



tashabud said...

What a lovely, heart-warming prose this is. I see why you don't feel lonely. I think I might be somewhat of a loner in a way. I feel fulfilled alone at home reading, writing, and playing chinese checkers. And this is even without little creatures or plants to attend to. When my husband is away on business trips, I can go on for days alone with no one to talk to until I go to work. And when I go to work, I don't talk there that much either.

I enjoyed reading your post. Your pictures are real treats to look at. I like the Neon Violet Meteor the best. I've never seen anything like it before. You sure have a green thumb. The few indoor plants that I bring home die in just a matter of months.

I'll be looking forward to your book. Thanks for bestowing us, your readers, your blessings and well wishes. I wish you and the little ones the same.


Anonymous said...

Lovely post. Your plants must adore you. :-) How is it coming on that dream home of yours? :-)

Anonymous said...

well this is really long journey

Anonymous said...

Hello Maitri,

Thanks for dropping your card at Evolve(((.)))ever. It is not oftentimes that I park a while rather than just drop by when visiting sites. I've spent considerable time here. Your sense of adoration for life beyond humans is both perceptible in your writing and touching. You appear to reflect quite well on many facets of life yet you display practical wisdom.

Whenever I have encountered interesting people, I feature their blogs in my posts at Evolve(((.)))ever. I'm doing this, together with one other young Indiblogger & I hope you'll like it.

Incidentally, the name sounds so close to what we have named our daughter as : Maithri!. And you have a lovely yellow house out there. Do visit me at Evolve(((.)))ever as often.

Henson Ray said...

You write so beautifully...the reader just sort of surrenders to your effortless prose and drifts through your story with easy abandon. Very well done!!!

maitrilibellule said...

I want to thank you so much. You are all so very dear for leaving comments. My life right now is topsy turvy with my mother near death and life a rollercoaster ride, so while first, your comments mean more to me than I can begin to say -- I read them, they mean the world to me, and you will never know how deeply appreciative I am for your comments -- sadly, I'm struggling just to keep up right now and can't answer in a proper fashion.

Please know that I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

Love to all,


Jackie said...

I simply love your rainy days. Oh the writing and glimpses into your life are wonderful.

I admire your ability with the African Violets. I am good with most plants as a rule. But the violets have remained an obstacle that I have yet to over come.

I keep trying though. They are so beautiful that I can't resist them when in the store.

I too am one that also enjoys being alone. I always have.

Even when my children were still home, we had our own business that allowed for my husband to be home nightly, and of course the house was always full of kids visiting and what not...even then I would grab every precious moment I could to spend in solitude.

My husband now travels a great deal and I am alone for weeks on end.

And I love it.

Thanks for this wonderful share Maitri. You have become one of my most treasured reads.:-)

Blog of Innocence said...

Solitude has always been a topic for me. As a writer, I've longed for the deep absorption in the self, away from modern distractions, or the fidgety mind.

MissKris said...

I wanted to stop by and tell you how beautiful your world appears to be and to say thankyou for blogging about it.

Lidian said...

What a lovely post! I relate to a lot of what you write about - I like solitude and plenty of it. Always have.

What gorgeous pictures, too. You are amazing bringing the violets back.

I am doing NaNoWriMo, too. My profile name is EleanorS...What sort of novel are you thinking of writing?

The Success said...

thanks to advertise on my blog with project wonderful

Success For You

Jackie said...

Thank you Maitri for accepting my add.

I feel very honored to be residing for just a little while here in this beautiful little cottage.

And I can't wait to see what you have in store for us next.

Are you sitting there right now writing?

Or taking some more wonderful pictures to share?

I hope you have a lovely week end!:-)

bonoriau said...

Thank you for using my PW to Ad your site. I'm following your twitter. Take care

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