A gumamela plant, when cut, continues to live and its baby bud will still grow to become beautiful flowers. You just need to put it in a jar with water or in the soil, and even without direct sunlight, it will thrive. You will believe me, when you see one.
Our gumamelas never run out of flowers. It births flowers in any season. It’s the first thing I see when I glance outside the window. They are deep pink and yellow. The hummingbirds love to visit them, and I would hum Flor e o Beija Flor silently, as I watched them hop from flower to flower.
I’ve been tilling the front yard weeks after I came home. I used to have a succulent garden in our front yard when I was about thirteen. My cousin and I used to share our plants. They were like our babies and we we’re the happiest young mamas everytime we see a bud on even one of them.
When I went to college, the garden was abandoned. The plants died until not one succulent was left. I tried to regain my passion for gardening when I started working. This time, I was growing roses—white, orange, pink and yellow roses. If I have spare time after work, I would go to plant exhibits at the malls to see what plant I can reward myself and bring home.
Nanay has had orchids back then. They were so beautiful. It’s hard to find orchids nowadays.
Then the parents became the caretakers, after my time was consumed with work and travel. Some years later, most of them are gone now. What’s left from that time is a bonsai rubber plant that I bought at an exhibit in SM City.
Like most plant mamas, I also sing and talk to my plants. But let me be clear here, I do all of these gardening works when I am certainly and absolutely sure that there are no caterpillars around— big or small as a needle, it doesn’t matter. They bring the same terror and horror to me. If I see even one small crawler, I would ask (but more like hysterically shouting) my Nanay to remove it and buried it somewhere. I also cannot kill them with my own hands despite how I despise caterpillars. I don’t like them because of a trauma that I haven’t been able to conquer but I don’t have the heart to kill them. They might have a mama and papa, a sister and brother, or a son and daughter. Lol. I just can’t put that greenish blood in my own hands.
Two weeks ago, I’ve seen a snake resting in the newly-finished plant box that I asked my Tatay to make— just below my room’s window, which I’ve always left open. I only had to call my Tatay when something like this happens because everyone here are scared of snakes. Tatay and I are scared of gigantic and venomous snakes but not so much with the small ones. The one I saw was around 4 ft long. So we bid the snake adieu and it slithered towards the back, much to the merriment of my Nanay, the baby monsters and sister-in-law. Lol. Actually, they were almost crying.
Tatay and I also share the same thing— we are scared of caterpillars. They look so vile and deadly and scary and disgusting and all the reasons why just thinking about them makes my hair stand now.
One time I found a black bee with a worm/s, as it was trying to build its house in a luggage. I had to wait for Pangga to get the worms, because, yes, my fear doesn’t make sense at all.
If that guy who placed the caterpillar inside my shirt when I was in grade school, which was crushed to death by my classmates as I was shaking and crying with fear would know how that incident made me feel now, perhaps, he would feel sorry. My classmates came to the rescue, but the act of killing the animal while it was crawling on my back and then feeling its blood on my skin thereafter, is the reason why I can’t kill caterpillars.
We’ve seen a 12 ft. python in our back yard a year ago (and sorry, we killed it because it was trying to eat our bok-bok-bok). They say there are bigger pythons around the place but as long as they’re not hungry, these snakes would run when you shoo them away. Do the same to a worm and they’ll keep crawling towards you, mindlessly.
So now, it’s obvious why I run from caterpillars.
Our passion and love for something might come and go— as with my passion for gardening, writing and drawing comes and goes like the season. Our fears might one day be conquered; our traumas healed. Or maybe, even not, and we’ll grow old living side by side with the fear. When we are at a point when it feels that we are held by the neck, unable to breathe and we can’t get out alive of a difficult situation, may we remember the story of the gumamela. Remember how it can thrive even without its roots. And how it can easily continue to live and bear beautiful flowers, even without regular sunlight, even after its life is supposed to be cut short.
We may not make it as easy as the gumamela, but we surely can thrive. We are capable. We sit higher than the worms in the animal kingdom, so we can find a way to keep going. We can use the heart and mind as our compass.
And also, I believe there is a magical force in the universe that gives way for miracles to happen.
Miracle… One of our major stockholder used to call me Miracle because he can’t figure out my name correctly. He is Norwegian so my name sounds foreign to him and thus he jumbled out the letters. Sometimes, it’s Maricle. I did not mind. When Marc, the Spanish CEO wrote to me an email following his visit at the factory discussing about the meaning of my name in Catalan, that was when I started to understand my longing. The sea and sky is encompassing, it’s never ending, it’s always there, no matter where we are. Most of the times, it’s an overwhelming beauty to look at but sometimes, it sends a different kind of terror. But still, it always comes home to what beauty she beheld.
PS. December birthed a series of challenges that I was fighting to sort up to the last minute today. I skipped today’s Christmas gathering and as I recall, I also skipped last year’s. Joyce was begging me to just come, even if it’s late. I can’t. I’m sorry, bestie.
I’ve only seen my colleagues four times since the lockdown in March.
Today, I’m over the top disappointed I even cried out of frustration. I don’t easily give up but today, I’m just going to rest my mind. I’ve not had good sleep since December when the new client came in and I knew beforehand, I would need to do some magic to ensure that no family next year would be without food on the table. I might not be able to ensure that after what happened today. I felt really bad. Brexit and the pandemic had caused tremendous damages this year that is why I felt obliged to ensure we keep this organization alive, for the many families that depends on it.
I decided to write to find solace amidst the confusion and frustration, but I ended up writing about grit and gumamelas. And worms, too.
I feel better now. The cathartic power of writing is just undeniable.