Four Items

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<p>I walked home this evening carrying four items, each with value inverse to price.</p>
<p>On my back, a laptop bag, complete with beastly 17″ MacBook Pro. I feel its burden whenever I carry it, which is always. It was a hand-me-down from our former Director who bought it brand new and after a week decided it was far to heavy and large to be viably transported on a regular basis. So I carry it every day between workplace and sleepplace and try to think of it as a weight-lifting exercise for my back. (To be fair, its not _that_ heavy, it just feels heavy cos the only bags it will fit in are designed for long distance journeys.)</p>
<p>In my left hand was a shamrock. My beloved flower, that has taught me anything I know about plants. It’s ancestor was first given to me by Edith, my Canadian Mom, shortly after I moved to Toronto. For the sake of reference only, I moved there the day Diana died. Throughout my first week I was accosted by strangers tearfully offering me their condolences.</p>
<p>The shamrock opens in day and closes at night. She turns towards the light, wilts if dehdrated or oversaturated, and perks back to springy self the minute you rectify the assault. She is, without doubt, the most satisfying and gratfying plant to look after. Edith told me it would bring me good luck, and not to worry if I killed it as she had planted a back-up at her home just incase.</p>
<p>I moved several times in Toronto, from suburban hell on the campus of the University to a funky three story Victorian house with bright orange, yellow, and green walls, dark blue cornices, and mice. I lived there with my best friend, Kip, who was from Australia and later married my best friend from Britain and took her with him to his antipodean homeland. I was sad to start with, because they were so far away, but now I love the fact that they at least are near each other and I always have a home wherever they are in the world.</p>
<p>After Kip left, Kim moved in, and teased me because I rotated the shamrock at night so that it wouldn’t have to strain so much as it changed its course through the day. More to the point, I rotated it so that it would grow straight, and not sidewards, but it seemed unfair and unnatural to make the turn in the day, when the plant had already made the effort to open and grow towards the light. We lived between an organic herbal shop and Kensington market, drank flax seed and spirulina smoothies every morning and, instead of baby bio, added our monthly offering to the plant water instead.  We discovered we were in synch when the plants objected to the iron overdose.</p>
<p>From Kim and our other housemate, Paul, I discovered the differences between the political right and left. At one point I told Paul he had to leave as I couldn’t stand their arguing any more. I didn’t realise that to them, they weren’t arguing, and the discussions were stimulation. To his credit, he refused to leave and proposed we could be friends instead. He introduced me to Lauryn Hill and we went to a literary evening at the University of Toronto at which Michael Ondaatje was a panelist. Of the four, his answers were consistently the most uninspired. He defended himself well though; “every word I write, I create, I ponder, I leave to rest, and I revisit. It has been carefully crafted and thoughtfully presented. How, then, can you expect me to be remotely that interesting in response to questions posed live and in the moment?”</p>
<p>After Kim returned to the UK, I also moved on, to a fairytale greenhouse set on the first floor of a rambling mansion with an intriguing floorplan. I had a room inside the house and a glass extension that somehow sat inside a tree. There were five cats, two girl housemates, both physicists, one much older man lodger who we shared a kitchen with but was otherwise silent and shuffled about lots, and our eclectic landlady who lived in the roof, worked in the basement, and had an office on the middle floor. Later on we became friends and I was allowed into her studio. It was filled with sandpits, toys, books, instruments…. all the tools of a sandplay psychotherapist with an interest in shamanism. I loved both her upstairs and her downstairs, most of her cats, and her plants. I spent the year writing and filling my rooms with plants. They loved the house, they loved the light, they loved the company. As did I. When I left Toronto I gave them all away but was saddest of all to leave the shamrock.</p>
<p>It was Nena, my landlady, who taught me about the rhizomes. The nodules. The secret pods below the leaves. In the earth. I dug up three with a teaspoon before leaving, wrapped them in a sandwich bag, and carried them back to London in my pocket. Five years of companionship in my pocket. And now, they are everywhere! On my boat, in my Granny’s flat, in my Mums house, and in the houses of friends around the country. Descendants from Edith. I tell them all it will bring you luck, and not to worry, I have backups just in case.</p>
<p>The third object I was carrying was a jar of milk with kefir culture inside. It (the culture) was given to me by two sailors we met in Patagonia last year. Thies and Kiki live on a famous wooden boat and sail the globe, and have done so for the last 25 years. They both have eyes that twinkle with the magic of living, and loving to live. They debate fiercely whether to head next for Argentina or Antarctica but never question the value of a life of simplicity and exploration.</p>
<p>The fourth was a backpackers guitar. Given to me for my 30th birthday by four of my dearest friends. Taken to Antarctica by me, and to the Middle East by Andy. Always stroked even by the least musical of visitors. Though I still struggle with an F chord, just holding the guitar and singing unnaccompanied makes me happy.</p>
<p>I write this from the warmth of my boat, surrounded and accompanied by these friends. Even the logs I burn are delivered by neighbours and ordered by a friend currently in Antarctica. There is no doubt in my mind which of these objects has the least value.</p>
<p>______</p>
<p>photo by Steve Nex, upon becoming the proud owner of a flowering shamrock from your truly. Came with an email called “blooming mental” and the message, “how do they do that?”</p>
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