Monday, October 15, 2007

Teachings from an Aloe Vera

It was a funny looking thing. Dark green leaves, fat with healing juice, stood straight out from the little pot of soil as if they’d been electrified. The luscious round stalks soared up until the tips collapsed into brown, limp strands, sagging over the edge of the pot like burnt Christmas tinsel.

It was all my fault. I’d meant well, but a long Indian Summer lulled me into a false sense of security, and I left the little aloe vera plant on the porch too long. It liked being there at first, stretching its crown of green toward the un-window-filtered sunlight.

Then, all of a sudden, it was cold one morning when I stepped outside in my sandals. I stared at my aloe vera in disbelief. Brown dreadlocks covered its icy green face.

Was I failure as an aloe vera owner? Was the Aloe Vera Welfare Service headed for my doorstep?

I scooped up my frostbitten charge and smuggled it inside, looking both ways for blue ribbon gardener spies. There was no one in sight.

For days the forlorn plant sat on the windowsill above the kitchen sink, reminding me of my failure to keep it safe. I knew I should trim off the dead ends, but I didn’t trust myself. Not then. What if I’d killed it? What if it wasn’t all the way dead, but just nearly, and if I took scissors to its traumatized extremities, I’d kill it for sure?

So, I hurried in and out of the kitchen on my endless errands, casting guilty glances at my transformed plant. Finally, I noticed that part of it was still stubbornly green. So I took the scissors, hunched my shoulders, and did what had to be done.

Now the little guy’s got himself a spiffy new ‘do. He looks like a child all ready for Sunday School. The fresh ends of his blunt haircut glisten like rain. His round leaves soar upward and end in horizontal slants.

It’s hard to remember him in his saggy state. I don’t even want to.

And do you know what? That little aloe plant doesn’t even remember his dead ends. He’s ready to soak up the winter sun through kitchen window without a single thought for what went wrong last month.

We could learn a lesson from this little guy. When we make a change for the better, let’s let all the old stuff go down the garbage disposal. We certainly don’t need to retrieve whatever gets ground up down there. I don’t know about you, but I value my fingers too highly.

I hope you do too.

Hey, that green spiky ‘do with the blunt ends might not be such a bad look after all.

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