Friday, 16 November 2012


I was walking through a mall today on my way to somewhere else, and I tossed an old receipt in the garbage can. And did a doubletake and went back to look. There in the garbage can was a beautiful white orchid plant. Still in the pot. Still in the plastic wrapper from the store. I pulled it out and it was just beautiful. So I took it back to my office and put it on the windowsill. I have been gazing at it all day as I work. What on earth is its story? Was it a rejected gift from an unwelcome admirer? Did a jilted lover toss it in a fit of frustration? Did someone just suddenly feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for such a lovely creature, throw it in the can, and run screaming from the mall? I am puzzled. It is a crime, such a waste of beauty, of life, to put a living thing in the garbage. It seems content and none the worse for wear as it stands in my window, soaking up the filtered light through the blinds.

I am notorious for killing houseplants. Outdoors I can grow any vegetable you can name, but indoor plants defeat me. Except for orchids. Yep. Those delicate, finicky, high-maintenance flowers seem to actually like me. A simple hardy no-fail African violet wilts and turns to fungus as soon as I walk into the room, but the ethereal orchid perks up and smiles at me and bursts into repeated bloom. Weird, huh? So maybe this amazing acquisition will thrive in my window. It has a better chance there than in the garbage, anyway. I felt heroic rescuing it. Every time I look at it, I will marvel at its survival, the serendipity of its being found, the beauty it brings to my humble cubicle. The audacity of someone to have thrown it away.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Zen and the Art of Housebreaking a Puppy

The faithful followers of this blog (all two of you) will have noticed I haven't written for a couple of weeks now. That's because we got a new puppy, and suddenly little things like writing - or showering - or breathing - are overwhelming to me. I haven't slept more than an hour at a stretch since we got him. I hadn't realized that having two dogs at once would be equivalent to having one-year-old quadruplets. But he's a sweetie, a charmer, and once we're past the leaky puppy stage, we'll be dandy. He's a cocker spaniel mix named Brio, which is Italian for liveliness, vigour, energy, and enthusiasm. His name fits.

My kids are happy about the addition to the family, and my husband has been a patient trooper. But the shake-up has made me wonder: what is it in me that feels compelled to stir up calm waters? Why can't I leave things peacefully status quo? Things calm down for two minutes and I feel the compulsion to plunge us back into the whirlwind. "Gee, the McKendrys haven't had a catastrophe for a couple of months now. Let's get a puppy!" Or renovate the house. Or move. Or go back to school. Or bring home another foster kid. How about a pyromaniac this time? We haven't had one of those for a while.

My husband is the quintessential practitioner of Zen. He's in the moment. He's content. He's not yearning or striving for life to be different. There's nothing he wants or needs. He's peaceful. I wish some of that would rub off on me. But if it hasn't in 26 years of marriage, it isn't likely to. So I will go on shaking things up, and he will patiently come along for the ride and help me pick up the pieces when my latest disaster explodes in my face.

I don't think Brio will end up being a disaster, though. He climbs up to drape himself across the back of my neck, snuffles in my ear, pants his sweet puppy breath, and beats me with his tail, and I am filled with love for this fellow sentient being. I guess, in a way, that is also Zen.