Call Me Joey. I’m an Icon.


She’s been hauling me from place to place for forty years, believe it or not. We met in a hardware store in 1973. I was not well, actually. Spider mites.

She was a cashier, her first job, and she took it upon herself to spruce up the houseplant section. The Retail Gods determined that I was not worth sprucing up, so she took me home as her own. She named me after the assistant manager at the store – Joey. She had a mad crush on him, even though he couldn’t have cared less about me and my fellow green folk.

Anyway, I am proud to say I was the first of many, many green folk in her life. Our relationship started her life-long love affair with my kind. At one point, she shared her house with more than one hundred of us. Today, there are maybe sixty  – but back then, it was just me.

Just Me

Just Me — Joey

The Family Tree

I would venture to say I made a real difference in her life. She was a teenager when I met her, living in a pretty unhappy home. Her father always smelled like Gallo sherry and she hated it. Sometimes there would be yelling, especially when her older brother came home from college.

She would escape to the refuge of our room after the dinner table explosions, where she would hum to herself while she spritzed me with water and wiped the dust from my stomata with bits of old flannel. Sometimes she would flip on the black light, which mellowed us both out. The hazy violet glow contained just a little bit of the red and blue rays I absorb, so it was kind of a dream state, like dawn, almost. Surrounded by posters of flowers and peace signs and George Harrison and Bob Dylan  in glowing orange, lime green, and rainbow hues, she would talk to me in that human vibration that makes your petioles tremble.

I like to think I was some comfort to her. I guess a shrink might suspect that she was bordering on codependency with me, but she needed somebody to take care of and to listen to her, and I was there. No judgment here – just glad I could serve.

She learned how to take care of me from her mother, which I could tell was nice for her because their relationship at the time wasn’t so smooth. It gave them something in common, and she would sometimes make up stuff to ask her Mom just to start a conversation.

Water Music

We’re not as close as we used to be. Back in the day, she talked to me all the time and carefully removed my yellowed leaves. She read somewhere that green folk like classical music, so she played that for me even though I actually preferred Led Zeppelin II and, of course, the drum solo on the Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album. Whoosh! Talk about trembling petioles!

in a gadda.blog

On weekends, she fed me a delectable brew of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash and then set me on the back porch for fresh air.

Now, though, we’ll go weeks with nothing more than an unceremonious dumping of left-over water from her bedside mug. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s better than the long droughts she subjects me to when she disappears for weeks at a time in the summer. She has her neighbor give water to a couple of my finicky companions – the avocado trees, the orange tree, and the oh-so particular Oxalis and her friend the button fern.

Tough Love

She knows I’m tough, though. We’ve been through a lot together – twenty roommates (give or take), some dogs and cats that left fur and dander on my leaves, a few parakeets that nibbled on me, lots of addresses. I’ve been shuffled from the bedroom to the bathroom to the sunny kitchen window. Once I spent months balanced on the seat of an abandoned exercise bike in a dark and dusty “junk room.” For several years now, I haven’t even been in soil – just rooted in water.

Still, I’m OK. She doesn’t need to worry about me. I whine, but to be honest, I don’t resent this treatment at all. I’m glad I’m no trouble to her. I know she loves me, I can feel the vibes.

I mean, seriously. WordPress suggests that she write about an icon of some sort, and out of the whole wide world, she chooses me.  She thought about elephants. She thought about Saint Francis. She thought about an old Art Deco statue in her town. But she picked me. An icon of her past. I know I’m not particularly special to look at – not like her fancy-pants orchids.



But out of 60-something green folks, I’m the only one she calls by name.

What might be an icon from your life??


Musical Spirit


I chose the clarinet as my instrument in fifth grade because I wanted to be like my big sister Lannie. I remembered that she had played the clarinet. Only she didn’t. She had played the autoharp, which, being black and white, I mistook for a clarinet. Lannie was in college by then, anyway, and I doubt she was impressed.

Clarinet with a Boehm System.

Not an autoharp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Musical Heritage

My mother was a lead soprano in college and wanted to sing professionally. Her mother wouldn’t allow it, because no daughter of hers was going to be a show girl. Maybe that was why Mom stopped singing, or maybe it was because she married my father and had us kids instead. She always loved music, though. She sang when she cooked, and she sang when she cleaned. She hummed when she mended our clothes. She would put on classical albums, and we would dance around our big Florida room.

Tickling the Ivories & Guzzling the Strawberry Hill

I started playing the piano to make my mother happy and in the hopes that my father would like it and stop drinking so much. I loved playing the piano, but wasn’t especially good at it. Still, I was better at that than at the clarinet. I didn’t much like playing the clarinet, even though Mom said that maybe one day I might march in the inaugural parade. I couldn’t bear to be seen in the high school marching band uniform, though, so I stopped playing when I was fifteen. Besides, I discovered boys and Boones Farm Strawberry Hill wine, which were way more interesting than band class.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Like a Rolling Stone

I sang in our church choir, too, and the leader was impressed with my voice. She called my mother in one afternoon to listen to me sing. She said I could hit a high B flat. Whatever that meant. I liked singing. But I also liked the boys and the wine, and I started smoking cigarettes to complete my image. I quit the choir. I quit the piano.

Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, Traffic, Steppenwolf. Drugs. Sex. You know, life in the seventies.

I got a guitar for Christmas when I was sixteen or seventeen, but never learned to play much more than Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone. I gave it to a long-ago boyfriend, I think, a guy I used to accompany to the bars where he played for tips.

My mother ended up getting dementia and accidentally sold our very valuable piano to some workman for a couple hundred bucks. It was the only thing I had ever told her I wanted after she was gone.

Oh well. Life, again. And death.

The Spirit Plays On

A few years ago, I got a used piano from my dear friend Brian – my former pastor, fellow environmental justice agitator, and a fine musician. The piano has a spirit all its own. My fingers also have a memory all their own. Although I struggle to read music – it’s been so long – my fingers recall the classical music I used to play for Mom and Dad. It’s miraculous, I think, as if there is this music running through my veins that I’m not even aware of.

New Year’s Eve, my buddy Lucky gave me his old, well-loved guitar. Guitar great Leo Kottke played it when he and Lucky were in the Navy together, about the time I discovered boys and Boones Farm. I’m going to get it re-stringed and maybe take some lessons.

It’s time to re-acquaint myself with making music. Not to emulate my cool big sister, and not because I want someone to pay attention or to love me. But because I have music in my genes, and it’s in my heart, and it makes my spirit whole.

 guitar 001

I wrote this post in response to the Daily Prompt Challenge. Thanks, WordPress, for the question:

What role does music play in your life?

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