A schoolgirl friend introduced me to Antoine de Saint Exupery’s “The Little Prince.” Then when we were college roommates as sophomores in 1971, she gave me a copy of my own as a Christmas gift.
I have the book still, after all these years, and I treasure it. Pondering what might be the topic of this week’s column, I hadn’t thought particularly about “The Little Prince,” but it came to mind as I was doing a few little Saturday morning “do-ey” things like rinsing out the hummingbird feeder and refilling it with the sugar water; watering my sweet potato vine and a recently salvaged-from-beside-the-Dumpster plant, which I have learned through Facebook friends and Google is called “Purple Heart;” and last, but not least, sweeping the patio.
I don’t do the last chore often enough. I’ll admit that. But it seems like a colossal waste of time. Stuff blows right back onto that northeast corner balcony porch and vacated cobwebs cling to the windowsills and screens, unaffected by the broom – the only thing I have to try and eradicate them. The patio’s also a haven for nest-building yellow jackets, which I have zero patience for. Though one of the blessings of living in an apartment is having maintenance men to call, who come promptly to spray nests, and are available to change light bulbs and unclog drains.
Anyway, if you remember, the Little Prince lived on a small planet, where all of his time and energy were spent taking care of things – controlling erupting volcanoes, eradicating pesky and invasive baobobs and tending to his rare and precious rose. Of course there were advantages to small planets – the frequency of sunsets to watch being one I remember all these years later.
So, sweeping the porch, I thought of the Little Prince and how quite accidentally I had so much in common with him. My patio is like a small planet with its plants that need watering; its sugar-water feeder I feel the hummingbirds desperately depend on; and its rocker that offers seating for the day’s evaluation or planning.
Admittedly, I don’t sit in the rocker as often as I’d expected to when I bought it and set it in place nearly five years ago. The days and my life seem to go swiftly by. Still, there’s comfort in knowing it’s there for just that purpose. I am fortunate I think that I have a piece of the world to claim, where I can sit and find a bit of peace, if I’ll let myself.
Not long after I moved here, my neighbor gave me a starter to an Aloe Vera plant, which grew and thrived, and I shared in starter pots with others in our complex. But last winter, not realizing there was a freeze warning, I left it out on the patio. My huge Aloe Vera plant froze to death. Friends told me it would come back – recover – but it didn’t. I was sad on so many levels. By then my friend and neighbor had moved away and it upset me not to have the thriving reminder of our friendship to tend to. And frankly, I just think it’s a bad reflection on me to have living things die on my watch.
I thought for a while I would replace the Aloe Vera, sooner rather than later. Now that it’s later, I have just taken that off that schedule and put it on a “one of these days” plan. To govern myself, and possibly prevent me from killing some other living thing – besides yellow jackets which I will take out a contract on – I put a sweet potato in my largest pot last spring. The vines have climbed and curled and grown with abandon, but I know it will die in a few weeks. Sweet potato vines live for a season and all I can do is enjoy them while they’re here. I call it guiltless compassion.
And the Purple Heart plant? All I can do is try and be a good plant mom. I’ve bought new potting soil and found a larger pot. And though it’s easy to say with first-day-of-fall temperatures hovering at 99 degrees, I’ll try to keep track of the weather. When the forecast is for below 41 degrees, it comes inside.
There’s a peace that comes from caring and keeping; pleasure in the mementoes of friends; delight in allowing the dictation of the seasons or accepting the expectancies of life. I am blessed by them.
Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.