The kids unearth a tiny medicine bottle from the garden, a gift raced in
from the cold. Over the sink I unplug its century of dirt, remembering
Dorothy Parker’s impractical daydreams of a garden and a family.
Everyone laughed at her – “Flowers? Children? You?” – as she nursed
her hangovers with elixirs from minuscule bottles just like this.
In a moment the kids are back breathless and grassy, delivering me
a bouquet of three violets striped purple and white to fill the bottle.
In the kitchen window, sunlight blooms them giant bearded orchids
a tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe,
who also yearned for children, or the vessel of her
petals glowing, monumental, filling walls, commanding rooms
until she fled, destined – or resigned? It’s so much the same
for women, in the end – to tower bones over the desert. My violets beg
to be painted, but not miniature, not still-life, larger than life
in an O’Keeffian landscape to exalt the ordinary. Parker’s mundane
Americans staggered across existential planes, too
big for their insignificance, wanting more of life without knowing
what, or how to ask. Isn’t all art, ultimately, self-portrait? Here I am
with no wall-space for a large canvas. A big house crowded
on the corner is lit up with bottles, purple succulents filling every inch
of the bay window. An elderly woman lives there. An artist, I imagine.
On our evening walks my husband mutters about the impracticality of her
knick-knacks and houseplants. “What are they for?” he snipes
meaning maybe, “How can empty bottles and cactus fulfill a person?” or
“Why leave such a mess for someone else to clean up after you die?” or
“Doesn’t she have any children?”
or even “Why doesn’t she have any children?” He doesn’t understand
questions of practicality are existential challenges.
He loathes clutter for the dust it catches.
I long for the light it also catches.
To him there’s little difference between collecting and hoarding. Love
his heart. I want to tell him about women. How we all become collections
of bones in the desert, vessels hoarding dirt. “Imagine what a pretty picture
it makes from the inside looking out,” I say instead, give his arm a squeeze.
Imagine having it all
in one frame. A window like a painting, a painting like a window;
imagine not having to choose, having a family
set small among cactus, children casting color through the glass.