The snake plant stands in its red clay pot, on the kitchen windowsill, adjusting itself to its new position: the light, the heat, the drop in humidity.
I'm thinking about the snake plant because, in years past, it came back to the city, traveling on the ferry in a heavy-duty shopping bag, much earlier in the season. We keep the heat off when we're not around, and snake plants can shrivel and burn when the temperature falls into the 40s. It just happens that Fire Island is near impossible to get to off season. Two ferries a day, one at 6:45 in the morning, another at 3:15, and I couldn't find a way to get out there with my schedule of the last month. So I was prepared for the worst. I'd actually pictured the worst: a brittle, dried out plant. Not even a plant anymore, but something else entirely: pale golden spears. I saw them break when pushed with the tip of a finger. It didn't help that the temperatures dropped to 23 on Long Island last weekend, with winds at 40 miles-an-hour. At least according to the forecast. The whole dilemma brought to mind something Joy Williams said earlier this year in Ecotone, where she admitted that she was open to the idea that plants have emotions and feel pain. And this was the snake plant I'd lugged around, wherever we went, for years! The snake plant that had spent the better part of the spring semester leaning toward the weak, winter light of Ithaca on top of a metal filing cabinet, in a rented house!
Well, the outcome of the story's pretty obvious. The snake plant lived. The snake plant is doing fine: active, green. And none too worse for wear. And that's my good omen for this Thanksgiving, 2008. I am thankful for the snake plant's persistence, stubbornness. And am already telling it it will never happen again.
For you, proud snake plant: a bit from Joy's great story, "The Yard Boy," which references a Spanish bayonet--perhaps a distant relative?
The rabbit's-foot-fern brightens at the yard boy's true annoyance. Its fuzzy long-haired rhizomes clutch its pot tightly. The space around it simmers, it bubbles. Each cell mobilizes its intent of skillful and creative action. It turns its leaves toward the Spanish bayonet. It straightens and sways. Straightens and sways. A moment passes. The message of retribution is received along the heated air. The yard boy sees the Spanish bayonet uproot itself and move out.