I used to write poetry like Whitman, wild with earthy ecstasy. After writing, I would run barefoot in the snow, then take a hot bath and a brainstorm on white paper. This used to mean something more than desperation. It meant that I did what thrilled me, not what came easiest in polite society.
I am not pining for those days, just stating a fact. Life passes imperceptibly from stage to stage. One day you're wild, and the next you are nearly domesticated, making steaming loaves of seedy bread and chatting with your friends about the probiotic powerhouse of home-fermented kefir ("I can give you some 'kefir grains' if you want").
Last winter, an acquaintance gave me an anthurium. The plant was unabashedly lush, with leaves that were smooth, thick, green. The flowers were eruptions of red- huge, glossy, tropical. You know how these Utah winters nearly kill me (trample me, at least, with soggy gray lethargy). This plant seemed like a small miracle, a gift from another garden where life still moves and animates the trees. I thought, "Maybe this plant can represent something, a symbol of wildness, of passion. Every time I water it, I think, I will be watering my wildness, that secret chaos that hides primly between the sheets of Passion and Propriety.
So I water it, but maybe not enough, or maybe too much. It dies.
A terrible idea, to make it a symbol. I begged my husband not to throw it away, and my mother-in-law, who stayed with us for the summer, nursed a few short leaves back to health. No flowers. No thick foliage. But it's there at least, a silent rebuke for still not having researched the proper care for this dying symbolic thing.