In September 2017, Hurricane Irma blew through my hometown of Miami, leaving power outages, debris in the streets, and moderate damage to buildings. We had to remove three regal palm trees that were laid low by the winds. We did not replace them and now, three years later, I miss those trees, and appreciate more than ever the palms that remain, especially those with brave little orchids growing on them. In South Florida, it is tradition to tie orchids to palm trees where they can thrive.
It is now the early days of summer 2020. My husband Brett and I sit outside on the back patio where a sweet breeze keeps us cool. The grandchildren just tornadoed through our house for two hours, and have gone home. I love those kids, but they wear me out. In the quiet, I stew with a sense of unease as I read Sunday’s newspaper, but my freshly shaken margarita is cold and refreshing and the afternoon sun shimmers on the lake behind our house.
To look at Brett and myself on this day, you would never guess that our country is in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, unemployment and economic concerns, and an upside-down government administration. Shouldn’t I feel more distraught and worried? Shouldn’t I be out at a rally or a protest march? My attention is drawn to an assemblage of gorgeous pink orchids blooming on the palm tree, each one a darling of absolute perfection. I ask Brett if he recalls a time 40 years ago.
“Honey, remember the poem you wrote for me when we were in college?” I say.
He’s strumming his guitar.
“Which one?” he asks.
I hesitate. “You didn’t write so many. I think it was the only one.”
When Brett and I were dating and we hit a rocky patch, he wrote me a poem entitled The Ephemeral Orchid. Its message was clear; his feelings for me were challenged by my mood swings and temper tantrums. My behavior gave him a sense of discontinuity that upset the balance we try to create in our lives. He didn’t know if we were compatible.
I loved that he saw me as an orchid—beautiful, tantalizing, and fragile. However, I wasn’t quite so sure about being ephemeral—something that lasts only a short time. Challenge on. I sit here 40 years later, ready to replay an old joke:
“Brett, do you think we’re compatible yet?”
He smirks as he struggles with a new tune he wants to learn. We’ve quarantined at home together for over three months now. The world seems so troubled, yet I feel contentment. I wonder if a hurricane will decimate our city this year. I wonder if the orchids will survive. I wonder if Brett and I will be compatible for another 40 years. I wish I could relax and just enjoy the moment.
BIO: Pamela Lear is a freelance writer living in Miami, Florida. She is working toward her MFA in Creative Nonfiction, with an emphasis on narrative medicine.
Photos by Pamela Lear
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