blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Indoor Plant Conundrum

This is the time of year when I repot my indoor plants, getting them ready for winter and the tougher, dryer, darker conditions of house living. I've had a plant called a Hoya since the summer of 1969 when we moved into our first house, a ramshackle money-pit of a farmhouse set in the middle of a Connecticut cornfield. The Hoya was given to me by the seller as a few cuttings stuck in a pot of dirt. This plant liked light, I was told, and it would create flowers once a year that had a "lovely" scent. Best place to hang it up = the bathroom. So, as a new homeowner, young housewife and would-be plant person, I followed directions. I watered the Hoya regularly and fed it, because that was how my mother-in-law took care of her plants. (As a sidebar, hers, on a steady diet of Miracle Grow(c) had grown to be Little Shop of Horrors sized monsters.)

The Hoya grew, the tough vines and rubbery leaves multiplying. The following spring, it bloomed, a white compound S/F type bloom, each single five-starred floret brightened by a red dot in the middle. Soon I realized the flowers were oozing and dripping sap all over the linoleum, sap which took some effort to scrub away. You could smell it at night, too, as promised, a heavy, sweet, rather sickening smell. ("Lovely" it was not.) Then, one by one, the florets dried. One by one they fell, scattering their little sticky brown selves all over the laundry, or whatever happened to be underneath. Every 3-4 years, the Hoya needed a complete repot, because it had filled the container  with a rock-hard root-ball, in the same way spider plants do. I dumped it out, took a few starter vines + rubbery leaves and began all over again.

This plant has lived in Connecticut (10 years), in Tennessee (4 years) and in Hershey (31 years), transported as a cutting in pots rowed up in the back of a VW bug. I have followed the life cycle, fed, watered, cleaned-up after and re-potted the Hoya many, many times.

Autumn draws on apace, and the Hoya sits on the back patio, waiting. I've stared at it many times during the last month, in those last warm days of October wondering when it would reach the top of the to-do list. Then, recently, sitting at the picnic table with Bob keeping me company (lying atop the magazine I had been reading), the Hoya caught my eye once more. Now, I have many things to tend this autumn, what with writing and all the crap that goes with it, volunteerism, meetings, pets, a husband, a house I haven't cleaned thoroughly since spring, and two gardens, neither of which I've put to bed as yet.  

I ruminated on the Hoya as the leaves of the old sugar maple drifted past. The plant sat there, pot-bound and not looking too happy at being left for so long out-of-doors in the wind and chill. Why did I go on keeping it? Simply because I had kept it for so long? Return to paragraph two, kind reader, and you will see the hard facts, the reality of owning a Hoya, which I had, for the first time, finally taken the time to inventory.

This may just be the year I get over my inability to let things go and just say the hell with it.

Juliet Waldron
See All my historical novels


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Champlain's Dream

An author, distinguished historian David Hackett Fischer, tells us how Champlain, a pragmatic, thoughtful French explorer of the early 1600’s, experienced the cultures of the Algonquin Indians whom he encountered.  A man who’d emerged from the bloody violence of France’s religious wars with an open, rather than a closed mind, Champlain understood how to induce people of varied backgrounds to cooperate. His belief in the universal nature of humankind, whatever their nation, allowed him to approach the Indigenous Sauvage with an attitude of respect.

A dream - so ephemeral a thing! Here is one that Champlain experienced 400 + years ago in the forests north of the lake which is now named for him. With a war party of sixty Indians, he and two other Frenchmen traveled into the forbidden territory of the Iroquois, with whom the Algonquin’s were eternally at war.  They traveled at night, and every morning, as they drew closer to danger, the places where the guardians of the Eastern Gate, the Mohawk, lay in wait for their enemies, the chiefs asked Champlain “if he had dreamed about their enemies.” For many days, “no” was the answer.  Then, one morning, about 11 a.m. he awoke and called the Indians to him. At last, as they’d seemed to expect, he’d dreamed.

“I dreamed I saw in the lake near a mountain, our enemies, the Iroquois drowning before our eyes. I wanted to rescue them, but our Indian allies told me that we should let them all die, for they were worth nothing.”

David Hackett Fischer then adds: “The Indians recognized the place in Champlain’s dream as a site that lay just ahead, and they were much relieved…To Champlain’s Indian allies, dreams not only revealed the future. They controlled it.”

A few days later, the Mohawk encountered European firearms in battle for the first time. Surprised by a man in armor and two sharpshooters with long-distance, deadly weapons stationed amid the enemy’s ranks, they were defeated. Champlain’s dream, seen as a prophecy, was true.

To me it seems that Champlain, surrounded by a gigantic, primal forest and the aboriginal people who inhabited it, had moved into another kind of consciousness, one which transcended his European world view and linear time.  The chiefs were content, pleased that their new friend had dreamed so positively, while Champlain, privately, may have been amazed - and even more so in the aftermath of the battle.  



Juliet Waldron
Historical Novels

Quotes taken from Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer