In praise of geraniums

Kas geraniums.jpg

I write from the porch, where I'm appreciating the warmth of this summer day and the several blooming geraniums crowded together in a narrow strip of sunlight. (We won't talk about the plants that struggle, despite copious dosings of insect spray and fertilizer.) It has taken me too long to learn what works here and what doesn't, and what works are geraniums. So no more buying exotics, or anything needing pampering. Life's too short.

I suspect my age has made me more appreciative of the always reliable geraniums, or of anything, in fact, that can be relied on not to break, quit, decay, or go out of style. I admit to craving a bit of style on occasion, but it mostly hangs unworn in my closet while I grab jeans and a tee-shirt. I can't decide if I've reverted to childhood, or finally come to my senses.

And maybe it's not my age but the age I live in that has me craving consistency. Life moves in herky-jerky ways that surprise and confound us on a daily basis. I wake each morning afraid to check the news, for surely yet another shock has been administered overnight to our collective psyche. How do reporters and news readers bear it?

No wonder the geraniums are comforting. I knew them as a child in sunny California and here they are on my mostly shady Oregon porch looking just the same. Continuity is good.

I read recently that Americans are all suffering a kind of PTSD. That feels overblown to me, but I don't doubt those who live on the edge—of poverty, illness, or any disaster—are especially susceptible to the constant yammering and hammering at the pillars that used to hold us all up. It must make grabbing a gun feel so reasonable.

Don't worry, I'm not about to grab a gun. But given the fetid atmosphere that issues from the Whitehouse, global economic uncertainty, and the hundreds of daily downers that reach us via social media, we can expect continued disruption and violence—until we don't.

It's not true that individuals can't make a difference. I watched my activist husband do it again and again. Not all of us can be activists but all of us can be kinder. We can listen. We can tamp down the urge to make a snide comment, or cut off another driver, or fail to offer a smile to those who serve us. We can keep our own stress levels down by turning off electronica and taking a walk or hugging a tree—or maybe a geranium. If a butterfly in Mexico can cause a typhoon in China, what do you think a smile can do?