Sunday Morning~ Biting Her Head Off

March 8, 2015

Daylight savings time. A balmy 10 degrees this morning and still four feet of snow with 9 foot drifts. And now it will be a month before I figure out how to change the clock in my car. Unless the kids visit sooner. My back hurts. My neck hurts. I’m tired.

But, I do have the most glorious amaryllis in bloom.  The bulb arrived in November, a surprise gift from an old boyfriend. I thought maybe it was defective as it showed no sign of life when I put it in the pot with my rosemary plant. It’s two companions did their thing, their little praying hands emerged from the center rather obediently the week before Christmas.  They rapidly produced chartreuse and variegated red blossoms and brightened up the withering landscapes of houseplants forced to endure winter in these northern climes.

But the other girl, wow. She had me fooled. She sat and sat, barely showing any sign of life, her hands in solemn prayer well through advent until it seemed she’d become a nun. January, nothing. Didn’t budge. But the rosemary didn’t mind her company, so I left her there in perpetual adolescent prayer.

By Februrary the days should have seemed longer.  Well, they were longer but it was hard to tell. Back to back to back blizzards and snowfall kept the house dark, but by mid-month this little beauty did her thing. I could almost watch her growing, expanding those arms into three enormous heads of buds. One day, in trying to rearrange the plants to give them better light, I knocked off one of the three bud heads. OH NO!  I stared at it on the floor.  I was doing this for you!  And now look what I did! You were just about to explode into your glorious song! And now I have killed you! (This winter has made us all a little crazy).

I trimmed the hollow stem and put it in a vase. Even if it never opens, I thought, the bud itself is gorgeous. I went to the plant to cut the broken stem down to the bulb, wiped my fingerprints off the crime scene, and left no evidence of the murder. The next day my windowsill was graced with emerging glory.  A huge white blossom opened, drooping to one side. The next day, another, then another, then another, until this beheaded blossom was a profusion of angel in the window, stunning against the snowdrifts outside. Spectacular. The heavy buds on the mother plant looked on in contracted silence, keeping their thoughts to themselves. I showed them the amputated sibling. See?  This is what you can become!

In preparing to go away for the family reunion, I poked some sticks into the pot to brace the buds that were now starting to topple.  I always wonder about nature when she creates a plant whose stem is not strong enough to hold it’s blossom.  Was this supposed to crawl on the ground? Well, not crawl, but lay? Anyway, all propped up, I left for five days.  What welcomed me home was a huge bouquet, four feet tall, bridal in it’s majesty, apparently too shy to dress in front of me. I’d call her a show-off, but really, she is modest in her glory, and was struggling to stay up despite the support she’s been given. I told her I should never have doubted.  I’m sorry I was impatient. I thought Christmas or New Year would have been her gift, but she waited for the hen party, knowing late winter I’d need a boost. Oh, so thoughtful of her.

My sister arrived the next day after a visit with my oldest son. She spent a lot of time with him when he was young, as she lived with us for a year to care for the kids while I worked to put my husband through graduate school. The kids were all very close to her. She’s been worried about him, as I have, and we drank wine while she recounted her visit. This was all going fairly well, until she started hitting a few nerves I thought I had well protected. Bling! Bling! Bling! My failures started being laid out before me. Not that this was supposed to be a punitive encounter (I hope), but the wine, the lack of a recent meal, the crappy day at work, the fatigue from the weekend, all aligned to expose those nerves in a very dangerous way, and I snapped. I don’t think she saw that coming.

I stood up, bit her head off, and stormed up to bed, leaving the ingredients for the great meal I was about to prepare, sitting on the counter with the beautiful broken blossom. I dove under my covers and wished the world would go away. We haven’t had a fight like that since we were kids. Well, it wasn’t really a fight.  It was me screaming at her. (But mom, she made me do it!!)

During the night I awoke to the muffled sound of the chickens howling and squawking like crazy. This happens in the summer when a predator gets into the coop, but the snow was so high all the possible entry points were covered, so I knew that couldn’t be it. In my half-asleep state I recalled that sometimes during the full moon they just squawk for a bit, and I had no desire to run out there in the below-zero temps to check. I am just so tired. The commotion didn’t last long, and I fell back into a deep sleep.

In the morning, I felt really badly about my behavior. Really.  When am I going to learn not to leave my soft underbelly exposed?  When zingers hit me I always think, I’ll let that go, I’ll let that go, I’ll let that go, and then at one point, I don’t let it go. Then watch out.

I pattered around doing chores then figured my sister probably didn’t feel like coming downstairs, so I brought her a cup of tea, and said, “I’m really sorry I bit your head off. You clearly hit a raw nerve.” We cried.  We hugged. She said she was sorry, too. She said she loves me and my kids, and I said the same to her. We let it go.

When she came down for breakfast I told her about the ruckus in the chicken coop and needed to go bring them food and water. I bundled up and trudged through the newest snowfall to the coop.  It’s getting harder and harder to get the door open with each new snow. I kicked it away and looked in.  Ten of the eleven chickens were on the roost as it was too cold for their feet on the frozen floor.  The eleventh was under the hanging food tray, headless. I mean, the head was gone. No sign of entry, no other injuries, no tracks around the coop.  Just one chicken with it’s head bitten off.

Well, they say it comes in threes.amaryllis