Original Artwork © Julie Cox, 2008
Ahh, December in Texas, when the garden finally starts to go dormant. The passion flower is drooping, the lantana is frost-nipped, the alyssum goes to seed - these are the signs of winter here in zone 8. The closest I think weve ever gotten to a white Christmas was the year I planted white pansies. Come Yule, they were still happily blooming their heads off, while people up North were shoveling their driveways. There are days I love the Bible Belt. Its also the time of year I like to gather things from my garden to use in magical work. After all, the plant wont be using it anymore. This year I wanted to share that process.
My preschooler was old enough to start learning about taking cuttings, I imagined, so one day while the baby was napping I strapped on the monitor, got some baggies and clippers, and took the small child out to the garden. It started out well enough. Like any three-year-old boy, he enjoyed destruction, so I let him clip little pieces off while I took more deliberate cuttings, some to root and some to dry and grind into a powder for my Work. I told him the names of the plants, what they were used for (when I could remember), and to be thankful to the plant for giving us part of its body to use. I dont know if he got this last one, but he was having a good time anyway, so I didnt try too hard to fill his head with it.
I should have known better. My careful instruction dismissed, he began cutting willy-nilly. Despite my repeated "no, were doing this for a purpose, not for wanton destruction, which is counter-productive," he snipped with glee. When I attempted to take the clippers he was devastated. After all, he pointed out with a surprising amount of articulation, he was only doing what I asked, and he was sorry he didnt understand. Assuaged, I gave him the clippers again and pointed him to a massive weed that was going to be pulled out later anyway. This one, I assured him, he could cut all he liked. Then I turned to my massive patch of alyssum, from which I wanted to gather as much seed as I could. I should have known better than to turn my back, because when I turned around again, he was NOT at the large weed, but at a pot by my front door. I walked over, horror rising in my throat.
A bit of horticultural background ... Purple oxalis is a lovely plant, so dark purple its almost black sometimes. Its leaves are essentially large shamrocks. It blooms tiny lilac flowers in the springtime, and its roots are these bizarre scaly tubers. Its one of my favorite plants, and it is very, very slow-growing. There was one in a pot by the front door in front of the fountain with some lovely variegated algerian ivy around it. I had been pampering it all year as it put on tiny new shoot after new shoot, perhaps one leaf a week. Now it was a large, lush plant the size of a basketball.
Or rather, it had been. Now all its beautiful purple leaves lay on the ground, crushed into the concrete by my childs sneakers. Even as I rushed towards him, he cheerfully snipped off another leaf. And stomped it.
I considered myself a strong person. I had been at home for four years by this time, and I had been through a lot. Childbirth, the loss of my professional identity, years of sleeplessness, temper tantrums, relationship issues, the death of family members, pets and many other difficult trials. Through all that I hardly ever cried. I just wasnt a crier. It just wasnt how I expressed myself. But something about the rapid, pointless destruction of a little thing I had toiled over for months, all in the space of a few distracted moments, put me over the edge. I burst into tears.
My son knew hed gone too far then. He came over to me and tried to comfort me, saying "Look, it will bloom again soon!" I tried to talk but found I couldnt express my frustration or my grief so I just held him and let him cry a little with me. It was a raw moment for us both, one of the only times for him that saying "Im sorry" didnt fix it. He couldnt undo his damage, and he couldnt make up for it. He could only regret what hed done. Im sure he was also a little bit scared; I dont know that hed ever seen me cry before. It was a sobering moment for my little tornado - his actions had consequences that he hadnt anticipated, and that he now had to deal with.
When I was cried out I gathered up our tools and went inside. We didnt talk much about what had happened, but we were both a little clingy that day. He helped me put some cuttings to root in water, and hang some others up to dry (if "helping" can be defined as pulling plant bits out of my bag and strewing them across the bathroom.) We read stories, we played with his baby brother. In the evening, as I put him to sleep, he asked me to stay a little while in his room while he drifted off. We talked softly as he lay in bed.
"I sorry I cut your plant," he whispered.
I brushed his askew hair back from his forehead. "Its alright sweetie. I forgive you."
He nestled a little deeper under his massive pile of blankets and stuffed animals. "Ok. I like you forgive me."
I smiled. "Nothing you ever do will make me not love you always."
He sighed and closed his eyes. "I always love you too, Mama. Even if you tell me no."
I held back a chuckle. "Good thing, because I say no a lot."
"Yeah I know."
He was asleep a moment later, when I walked out and shut the door. The plants wed gathered that day sat nearby in the bathroom window, in jars and cups of water, or hung upstairs. The spirit in which they had been gathered wasnt perfect, like Id wanted it, but then, neither I nor my family were perfect either. No matter what we might accidentally (or intentionally) do, however, there was always love there. And that was enough.
About the Author: Julie Cox is a new pagan writer and artist who lives with her two young children and husband in Texas. She carries degrees in both Art and Religion. To see more of Julie's artwork go to Shopping and Art gallery on our main menu.