When I got an amaryllis for Christmas, I was at best unimpressed. The box is a kit with a disk of compressed stuff for dirt, a dried bulb with a pale nub sticking up, and a plain ceramic pot…just add water. It’s the sort of present you get someone when you don’t know what they want, or you know that they don’t need anything, and it’s some thing that can be thrown away after. I often get my mom flowers for occasions like her birthday because they don’t clutter her house, except for the odd vase, and sometimes I don’t send them with the vase. They are pretty for a while, and then she throws them out. So I accepted gracefully and took the kit home.
I soaked the hockey puck of compressed medium and was surprised to find that it spread out to more than fill the pot even without the fist-sized bulb. I planted the bulb and set it in the window, wondering if it was already dead. After all, I could then say I tried, and when it rotted or dried up, I could throw it away.
But when the little white nub, like a thick fingernail sticking up from the wet potting medium, began to turn green and split into fleshy leaves, I felt a sense of renewal. Life really does come from an unseen place. It needs only the most minor encouragement–a little water and some light from a window that only gets 15 minutes of sunshine and then only in the winter. Amaryllis are not fussy–no special light pattern or arcane mix of fertilizer or ritual of watering other than minimal care. This one has already bloomed, three giant, red lilies on a stalk as big as two of my fingers, and now the leaves spread two feet tall, five graceful green curves that span my picture window. Soon it will be time to find a spot for the bulb outside where it will get enough sun to bloom again next year. The plant feels like a friend now, not just something that clutters my desk, though the showy flower is finished.
How much care does a person need to bloom? Do I give myself at least enough light and moisture to allow my inner life a space to grow, and do I pay attention each day to the slight changes in my growth, letting my roots develop and appreciating the daily work the leaves do in feeding the bulb of my soul? Do I check in with myself now each day even long enough to see if I need some watering? Am I getting enough sunlight and time to myself?
My friend the amaryllis reminds me to pay attention, and its friend, the African violet, is blooming like crazy. And I am writing again.