Write of Way by Mary Lou Sanelli

Thursday, July 01, 2021 1:43 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

Where I Am. Now.

Even if I consider picking dead leaves off potted succulents “gardening” these days, I have a friend who does not. “Succulents hardly qualify,” she says. “They need no maintenance whatsoever.”

To which I reply, “Exactly.”

She is one of my friends, and I have a few, who has sizeable grounds and likes to tease me about calling my tiny balcony a garden. To her, a huge house and garden means she has arrived. But I am lost in all that space.

“Like plants,” I say, “we tend to gravitate toward people who don’t give us a hard time.” She frowns, but her eyes smile.

She came by to drive me, along with three others, up to Skagit Valley. Just the thought of traveling to farm country cancels every guilty thought I have about playing hooky on a weekday. Sometimes I wonder how such guilt is even possible.

I love the idea of walking without a mask through fields far from anyone, not to mention how five of us will fit into a Mazda. “You’re riding shotgun,” she says, and off we go.

No sooner are we on the freeway when one of us lights up a little, as she put it, “non-habit-forming inducement.”

“But you smoke that stuff every day,” I say.

“Your point being?”

“No point.”

“It’s not like I’m addicted.”

Fortunately, we all laugh. None of us really wants to be reminded of ourselves, we simply want to be ourselves. We are middle-aged women and thank goodness we have middle-aged acceptance of our vices.

Of which there are a few.

Farmland, now on both sides of the freeway, makes me remember a time, early into my marriage, when I planted a container of Night Blooming Jasmine against my husband’s advice. I thought that if I placed it close enough to the house it would absorb the reflected heat and eventually trellis over the doorway. “There are pictures,” I said, handing him a magazine. “Look.” He thumbed through the pages, shaking his head.

The next day I bought what he called my “potted pipe dream.” It lasted right up till our first freeze. Undaunted, I bought more and more plants, more and more seeds. I scattered them everywhere because this is how I like to spread seeds, a little recklessly.

I think of that haphazard garden often. Really, the memory of living in that house is nothing without that garden.

I recall something else my husband said, how some women are turned on by strong abs, others by wealth and power, and others by seeds sold in small packets. It will never be even remotely possible that I don’t remember him saying that.

I suppose I thought of my garden in the same way I thought of my marriage at the time: in its possibility, I’d find protection. That garden was a metaphor for a lot of of my hopes, discoveries, and disappointments. But I hardly saw it like that. I was still so blasé about what nature has to teach us.

One last thought: Gardening taught me a lot about possibilities.


There it is again. That word.

And why, in La Conner, I buy a succulent called Moon Glow. The sign says the plant is well-suited for small spaces in that it likes to spread out but is not aggressive.

I read that sign again.

I had been swept back in time for the last forty minutes. I thought the best choice would be to choose the present. Where I am. Now.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and master dance teacher, published her first novel, The Star Struck Dance Studio of Yucca Springs, in 2019. Her newest collection of essays, Every Little Thing, has been nominated for a Northwest Book Award and is to be released in September. This column is an excerpt from this collection. For more information about her and her work, visit www.marylousanelli.com.

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