The little Ashevillage has funny and surprising ways of taking care of you when you need it most, but rarely when or where you expect it. Instead, it sneaks up on you.
Doing a little garden therapy on this warm and sunny second full day of spring, I decided to make my ritual first visit of the new season to my favorite garden center.
I was not the only one with that idea.
Determined to limit myself to just one plant (instead of the usual wagon load of abundance), I picked out a pot of Dragon’s Blood and headed out to pay, trying to ignore the rows and rows of colorful possibilities.
“I can take you over here,” a voice called out.
A woman, perhaps in her 60s and wearing a deep pink sweatshirt, blue jeans and blue dangly earrings, was beckoning to me. A thin blonde braid trailed out from underneath her wide brimmed hat, like a tendril of golden ivy seeking the sun. Her aqua mirror shades covered up her eyes, offering me twin reflections of my Saturday morning self.
I had never seen her there before, despite being a regular visitor.
As she rang me up, we got to talking. I was surprised to discover she had been living in my neighborhood – around the corner and down the street, just steps away from Casa Mia. Somehow, I had never seen her until today.
“My name’s Jill,” she responded when I asked her name. “My email’s Jill-no-Jack, ’cause I got tired of people asking me…. They don’t ask Jacks, ‘where’s your Jill,’ do they?! That’s sexist.”
She told me of the mountainside garden she left behind in my neighborhood when she split from her boyfriend, and of the many plants she had created there.
“I told him, I’m coming back to get those!”
There was no doubt in my mind that she would.
“I thought I’d be living with him the rest of my life,” she continued, taking my credit card, “but that isn’t how it worked out.
And now,’ she paused for effect, “a whole new life has opened up before me. New people, new adventures. I’m gonna be just fine.”
I had told her nothing of me or my life, apart from where I lived.
“Bloom where you’re planted,” she continued, pushing the receipt over for me to sign and fixing her aqua gaze on me. “You’ve heard that a thousand times, haven’t you?”
I nodded. At least a thousand, I thought to myself, also thinking how happy I was to have planted myself in Appalachia.
“Here’s another one for ya,” Jill-no-Jack said from behind the blue reflections of myself.
“Don’t seek love in a barren field.”
“What?” I asked, not quite sure if I’d heard her correctly.
She grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled it down for me.
I’m working on a little book of wisdom,” she confided, leaning in toward me and whispering behind the back of her hand. “It’s gonna be small enough to fit in your backpocket so you can still read it when your head’s up your ass.”
I look forward to reading that, I smiled politely, wondering if I was meant to take that personally.
As I turned to walk away, she called after me, “Hold onto your light, girl – and stay away from the pits of darkness!”
Hugging my new little plant – and my light – I waved goodbye and headed back home, her scrap of paper tucked in the back pocket of my jeans.
It’s not like you can purposely seek out the whimsical wisdom of the Ashevillage, but somehow – like spring –
it appears at just the right time.