Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Plant Doctor's Hospital

View from the Plant Hospital
I covet two nicknames that my Mother has given me: The Plant Doctor and Superwoman. The Plant Doctor refers to my knack for bringing seemingly dead plants back to life and bloom in my sunroom while the Superwoman name is a hat tip to my physical strength.
Mom likes things to look just right so any plant that struggles makes its way over to my house. Some go straight to the compost pile but a number of plants in my sunroom serve as testaments and metaphors to strength, nurturing, and eternal life. Here are a few of my favorite plant stories:

My Christmas Cactus is one of my pride and joys. I believe it is 20 years old this year. With each replanting (4 times), I have increased the size of the pot, and the plant triples in size and strength. The one thing I learned (notice where part of the “tree trunk” has rotted away) is to not overwater this spectacular plant.
When my grandmother died in 1990, my Mom found a philodendron several months later that had not been watered since before her death. She watered it several times and the plant snapped back to life. This summer Mom decided to clone it as a gift to her Plant Doctor. When she was in the hospital for two extended stays in both May and September she reminded me several times to make sure the plant cuttings in her laundry room had water in the jar. I thought it was an odd request. When she gave me the potted clone (see picture above) late last Fall and told me how it survived and thrived through the years, I couldn’t help but think “yet another example of eternal life.” 

My best friend from college Denise Harrod gave me a small cutting of this rabbit foot fern. In addition to the two hanging in my sunroom that grew from her 6-inch cutting, I have made several additional plants as gifts. I believe Denise received her cutting from her mother who started hers from a friend’s plant. Clearly, the rabbit foot fern is a unique (and lucky) gift that keeps on giving.

Recently Repotted (above)
Soon to Re-Bloom (below)

Orchids. They have a reputation for being difficult. Since I’ve never had a problem having my orchids re-bloom, my mother sends hers to the Plant Hospital during the dormant phase, declaring them hopeless. Several orchids from my Mom later, I firmly believe that patience is the key to orchids. They really do not require much care. I’ve only repotted one over the last eight years and have enjoyed dozens of orchid blooms throughout the seasons and years.

Over five years ago, my Mom sent an almost dead jade plant to the Hospital. It was soaked to the root. I put the plant, roots exposed, on my deck table to bask in summer heat for at least a week and then repotted. Several repots later, I have a jade “tree” and another jade plant that survived being dropped on the sidewalk when I moved it from my work office.

These are just a few stories that my plants can tell. When I look around my sunroom I realize that almost every plant has a history of importance in my life. Many of the planters do also. I see celebrations, gifts, funerals, weddings, and life milestones. These thriving plants are another face of family and friends and experiences fully worthy of my loving attention.
A few simple tips from The Plant Doctor: don’t overwater, be patient, and enjoy the stories and memories that healthy plants can offer.
Jim's Plant
A Clone of a Clone from Miss Margaret Neate
Gene Moore: Your plant is in good hands!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tikal and the "Mayan Prophecy"

View From the Top of Pyramid 4
Late December and early January of 2009-2010 found me traveling solo in Central America, exploring the countries of Belize and Guatemala. What I anticipated to be a beach, snorkeling, and reading vacation turned into an exploration of the inlands of these two countries rich in Maya history and archaeology.
On New Year’s Day 2010, I explored Tikal, the most significant Maya archaeological site in the world. The evening before, I queried the expatriate owner of the small but lovely motel where I boarded, about Tikal, living in Guatemala, and the "Mayan Prophecy." He promised that if I listened, asked questions, and opened my heart that the message behind the prophecy would be revealed at Tikal. With the knowledge gleaned, he told me I would have the spirit to interpret the prophecy in a way that made sense to my heart and intellect. When I asked him what he thought, he smiled wryly and said: “Business has always been slow but steady here. I expected better when I bought this property.” I then asked what he anticipated December 2012 would bring. With that question, his guarded smile turned to a wide grin, “I’ve got a full house with deposits and a long waiting list. Let’s just say I’m planning on a happy new year 2013!”
The heat of Guatemala and the exposure to sun in Tikal National Park required one to start their explorations at the crack of dawn. I set off with my new friend I met in Belize, JoAnne Jackson from Toronto, who was not only a wonderful travel partner but also comfortable with the Spanish language. 
The Climb to Pyramid 4
Several experiences stand out on the way to the Grand Plaza, the center of activity in Tikal. When walking in the jungle, the sounds of howler monkeys filled the air. JoAnne stopped and then pointed up. The tree was filled with dozens, maybe hundreds of monkeys howling, swinging, and perching. My jaw dropped; I've never seen anything like it! The cut trail through the forest would unexpectedly open up to reveal a massive temple, palace, pyramid, residence, or other limestone structure and then the jungle would reabsorb us once again. On the path, one of the spectacular early structures was Pyramid 4. Visitors are allowed, at their own risk, to climb many of the temples and pyramids. JoAnne was unable to climb but I had the monkey spirit in me. The reward of climbing Pyramid 4 was a view of temples seemingly growing from the forest canopy as the sun burned the early morning fog from the sky (see picture above). I glowed; divinity at its finest. 
My hotel-owner friend said to pay special attention to the Grand Plaza, which was the center of Maya life when Tikal was at its peak both in population and influence (c. AD 700). He recommended I find a guide to explain about how the temples align with the Maya calendar. This is what I learned: 
The seven temples of the Grand Plaza align precisely with the solstices making a large format sun dial. Maya life revolved around time and they had various calendars and cycles for different life events. The largest Maya calendar operates on a 25,000 year cycle and ends when the light reaches the end of the cycle, which falls in December 2012. Despite the popularity of apocalyptic claims and prophecies, the Mayas never predicted the end of the world but rather the end of the calendar cycle that will bring a global transformation of consciousness and evolution. 

The Grand Plaza, View One
Grand Plaza View 2
Now, sitting at the beginning of 2012, I can think of nothing more hopeful than a global transformation of consciousness and evolution. Whether this is brought by the Maya calendar or the grace of God the game could change this December. What if the world becomes a more compassionate, peaceful place because of the Maya's forecast of transformation? It's up to me and you and everyone else to make it happen. The "Mayan Prophecy" is a fun and timely way to share this hope. 

Another Angle on the Temple of Great Jaguar, Grand Plaza
Note: Art historians, epigraphers, and most archaeologists continue to prefer the use of Maya, both as noun and adjective, over Mayan. Therefore, against my natural instinct, the term Maya is used except with the distinctly modern term “Mayan Prophecy.” 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hope, Feathers, and Useful Poetry

I possess hope, feathers, and useful poetry.
This week called for a couple of birthday gifts.
I gave hope, feathers, and useful poetry.


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

(Emily Dickinson, circa 1861)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A River of Stones

"The Turning Point"
Acrylic on Canvas,  30" x 40"
by John P. Lackey
Provenance: Personal Collection of A. Rogers
For more information:

My friend Madeline Sharples (Leaving the Hall Light On, Lucky Press, 2011) invited me to participate in a River of Stones, January 2012. 
Today, I would like to invite you. It’s a bit belated but just as sincere as if I sent you a card in the mail last week. Please consider participating in this New Year’s challenge that offers immediate satisfaction and no competition. It can be personal, or if the inkling strikes, the Stone may be shared on the River of Stones website.
The exercise is simple: notice something every day and write it down. That’s all. Next, if inclined, make this “something” into a Small Stone, which is a short piece of writing (usually a couple of sentences) of prose or poetry that captures a simple mystical moment each day. I’ve found the experience of finding that Small Stone more rewarding than the actual writing. It encourages me to pay attention; this morning I marveled in the way the brown liquid stream filled my coffee cup and the sounds from my dogs circling my writing desk in anticipation of breakfast. Neither will be my Stone for the day but the engagement and awareness of my world around me is increasing each day. What a positive reward on a very small investment of time!
As of today, my Small Stones sit on scraps of paper scattered around my home. I haven’t posted any to the blog nor have I added them to my journal. The latter will be my first step this morning. Regardless of what I “do” with my Stones, the oft-talked about experience of “being present” can be practiced through this exercise by children, teenagers, and adults alike. 

For me, it is a wonderful reminder that God is in the details.
For more information on a River of Stones, join the Facebook page for daily reminders: or go directly to their website: