Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Signs of Spring . . .

March 5, 2008

With a nod of sympathy to those friends and family in the far north, I must report another beautiful sunny day in Parras de la Fuente. The grapevines, as well as the pecan and fig trees, have begun leafing out, and there are other signs of spring. The summer birds are returning in a flurry of nest building and mating rituals. The mockingbird has not become annoying yet, but he has been here long enough that we are very much aware of his presence. The hummingbirds are returning. There don’t seem to be as many as there were last year, but those who have returned are much more interested in our feeders than they were in the past. I’m not sure if that is a sign of good training or a lack of natural alternatives. It’s probably a combination of the two. In general, the landscape is brown, not the varying shades of green that we saw last spring. There was almost no rain this winter and even the native vegetation is looking a bit tired and droopy. However, with or without moisture, time marches on and the plants and animals are doing their best to fulfill their springtime duties.

We have decided not to contribute to the springtime madness. With the continuing construction, our garden area has been converted to a materials storage area and mortar production site. A garden is almost out of the question. We are also planning a trip to Maine in early May and then a visit to Alaska for most of the month of June. It just doesn’t make sense to do a lot of planting now, knowing that we wouldn’t be here to take care of it.

Having made that decision, the plants that survived the winter and the construction activity are more precious that ever. It looks like several of the rose bushes will be ready to bloom their hearts out soon. We have two Texas Ranger plants that have almost doubled in size and are covered with blossoms with more appearing every day. The desert plants in the garden are all doing well. With the few drops of water we gave them over the winter, they are faring much better than their wild cousins. The artichokes are among the most fascinating plants in the garden. What’s not to love? With silvery-gray, giant jagged leaves, almost no water requirements, and the promise of beautiful thistle-like flowers, they are a real show-piece.

However, today my thoughts run to orchids. There is a real beauty in bloom just outside my office window that faces the enclosed garden. The plant itself is just this side of ugly. Its Mexican name ‘cuerno de chivo’ (goat horn), perfectly describes the rough green spiked leaves. The root system is completely exposed; as important as an anchor as it is for food collection. Like many other orchids it is epiphytic, relying on airborne humidity and nutrition. It is a wonder that it survives at all here in the arid mountains of Mexico, given the fierce dry wind that blows incessantly at times. Even though it lives within the protection of ancient adobe walls, it still has a tough life.

The bloom stalk is more than two feet long and the blooms themselves are tiny replicas of each other. Dainty little dancing ladies all dressed up in bright yellow gowns. You might walk past it without even noticing it, but once you see it, you can’t take your eyes away. It is lovely! How long will it last? From the opening of the first bud to the fading of the last blossom, a month may pass, a little longer with luck. But then the process of making it bloom again begins. We will rack our brains trying to remember exactly what the conditions were before the bloom stalk emerged and then we take all kinds of extraordinary measures to recreate those conditions. When will it bloom again? It will bloom when it’s ready and not a moment sooner.

Our plan is to leave this orchid and all the others in the hands of Ramon, the ‘bodega’ guy, for a few days. I have an appointment on March 11 to see Dr. Jayaram, the miracle maker who did my ablation procedure. Please keep you fingers crossed that he will use the word “fabulous” or something similar to describe my recovery. I feel great and the sooner I can be off the blood-thinning medication, the better.

I have enjoyed being home these past two weeks. I believe it may take occasional adversity for me to truly appreciate the abundance of blessings in my life. I have been aware of little details that I never noticed before, and I have been a little more careful with people who might have been taken for granted earlier.

I hope that each of you crosses paths with an orchid soon. When you do, think of me!