Close at hand
“Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.” ― Yann Martel
Last summer I bought a small hibiscus plant at a clearance price, and brought it home to our deck. It thrived and bloomed profusely, until I noticed the upper leaves were beginning to disappear. It didn’t take long before I discovered the culprit: a squirrel who decided to dine on it several times a day. I got quite a few photos of that squirrel eating up our lovely plant before I chased him away, but he kept returning no matter how cleverly I placed the plant hoping to shield it from his hungry paws and jaws.
In the fall, as the weather began to turn and I was coping with the shock of deep grief, I brought the now-straggly plant indoors, hoping to preserve it for the winter. All but one of the stripped stalks eventual shriveled and died, but there was one that did not, and continued to bear leaves that the squirrel could no longer consume. With the recent warm days we have enjoyed, I took it outside for a few days, and soon it produced a single beautiful bloom.
As with all hibiscus flowers, it faded quickly, but not (as you probably would guess) before I took several photos of it, marveling at how it looked so different from various angles and lighting. It was a lovely start to an otherwise difficult day. Will that single stalk survive? Will others take the place of the ones that died? Stay tuned; updates are sure to follow.
In the meantime, though, I thought of that flower when I read what Martel said about survival. It is a concise but very accurate summary of what has kept me going. That bloom was close at hand, and immediate, as are so many other things that have filled the days and weeks that otherwise may have been unbearable.
Much of the immediate is not particularly appealing; bureaucratic nonsense related to various aspects of Matt’s disability services, seemingly endless paperwork following Jeff’s death, which comes from the Defense Finance and Accounting, the Veteran’s Administration, the Social Security Administration and numerous other contacts; and all the laundry, care-giving and household maintenance that I am now handling alone. Survival has required that I pay attention to these things, and whether I like it or not, it probably has been a sort of distraction from deep sorrow.
But I’m especially thankful for all the lovely things that are close at hand. Matt’s generally agreeable nature, Amy’s continual support, the morning mug of tea (and the second morning one, and the mid-morning one, and the noontime one, and the early afternoon, and…) and the continuing joy of books, birds and blooms– these are only a few of the things that are there, awaiting my attention, enabling my survival.
What is close at hand and immediate for you today? Whether these things inspire curses or blessings, your attention to them will get you through the day. I wish you many joys that are this very moment within easy reach.