A concerned friend called last week. “I read your blog,” he said, referring to my most recent litany of professional triumphs. “Thought I should check up on you.”
“Oh, that,” I replied dismissively. “I’m fine. You know by now that I like to unload stuff and then it’s the world’s problem. I’m onto other things now.”
Which actually appears to be the case. I’m not as good at sitting in my emotional squalor as I once was; it’s no longer that interesting or entertaining, I guess. I still veer from euphoria to despair every few days, but I pay less attention to the extremes. At least I tend to take them less seriously, preferring instead to simply forge ahead. So I’m busily pursuing a couple of possibilities that have materialized since we last commiserated – jaw clenched, blinders on. More showbiz, please!
Maybe my newfound motivation is seasonally inspired: change is definitely in the air around here. Unlike at other times of the year, New York City’s weather tends to observe the Labor Day dictum that Summer Is Over. (There are exceptions, of course, so I’m not convinced there’s not another beach day or two in store; last year we enjoyed one shortly after that blizzard we had in October, and it was incredible.) Immediately following the holiday weekend, the sun has grown noticeably less strident, and you can already start to smell Canada (or Christmas, if you’re not careful). There are some newly discolored leaves in the park, though that tends to happen by the branchful – leading one to wonder if it’s a seasonal phenomenon or a side effect of this summer’s cicada invasion. They were of the gigantic, once-every-17-years variety, innocuous enough when adding their whirring buzz to the nighttime chorus of katydids and crickets (and rats and snakes and whatever else is lurking up there in the woods – rapists, I bet. Hold me) – though when one of those Tonka Volkswagens goes winging past your head, you know it. I’ve also noticed a brown tinge around the leaves of many area maples, which I’m hoping is due to the aftereffects of too much sun exposure (I’m feeling a little crispy around the edges myself this year), rather than some new, undiagnosed blight poised to go undetected by the Parks Department for another decade, at which point the maples will have been decimated and summarily replaced by those awful Chinese things that are so indestructible they’ll grow in Comet…and look like they did. For now I’m pretending that it’s all merely a byproduct of the approaching autumn, one which I’ve managed to miss every year up until now.
Even indoors, the impending equinox is making itself known: my bedroom ficus tree’s annual death wish has kicked in. Every year around this time, after an uneventful winter, spring and summer, it begins shooting handfuls of yellow leaves at me whenever I walk past. It always manages to pull through, however, despite my decidedly non-green thumb. I’ve never managed to keep a plant alive as long as I’ve had this thing, though the results aren’t necessarily breathtaking. Friends of mine have been cultivating their ficus for about as long as I’ve had mine, but they know how to prune theirs and make it all presentable and Architectural Digest-looking. Meanwhile, mine could have come from the Professor Irwin Corey Tree Farm.
Still, it’s faring better than my dinosaur plant. That’s what I call the cycad I picked up at the local supermarket where I used to shop before I caught the owner sneezing on the strawberries one morning. Cycads are a fascinating evolutionary dead-end – literally, at my house, unfortunately. Fern-like fronds with sharp, needle-esque leaves cascade from a large kernel resembling a pinecone. (There’s a massive one on the campus of Vassar, though how I came to know this is a story nowhere near interesting enough to justify its length, so I will forgo telling it here.) Most of the specimens I’ve encountered spring from a tangerine-sized seed, proudly displaying about a dozen festive fronds. The one I found had managed to produce three, so naturally I felt compelled to take it home, Charlie Brown-style. And there it sat, in a sort of suspended animation for months on end (“Is it dead?”) – until each summer, when two or three exploratory tendrils would shoot out of it, growing actual inches per day. These would gradually produce tiny, apparently succulent, rudimentary leaves which were in turn stripped off by my cats whenever I wasn’t looking. The fiends would then turn their attention to the tendrils themselves, nibbling them down to nubs and thus suspending all growth for yet another year. This time though, the fight seemed to have gone out of it: a couple of half-hearted sprouts, then chomp chomp, and the whole thing turned yellow and died. The cats maintain their innocence, though I doubt their alibi that cicadas did it. (Cicadas – cycad – see what I did there? Yeah, me neither.)
So ask me if I’ve thrown it out yet. Well…not quite, though it’s on my list. Maybe I’m just not ready to admit defeat (q.v. pretty much every other entry in this infernal blog), but it’s still sitting forlornly on my nightstand, I’m not proud to admit.
“What? A Virgo who procrastinates?!” another friend recently gasped.
“Yeah, but I’m really good at it,” I countered. “I have a whole system and everything.”
Hey, wait – maybe my newly invigorated outlook isn’t being prompted by autumn’s imminent arrival at all: it’s Virgo season! I do have a birthday coming up, and though it’s not exactly a milestone, we’re getting there. I can vividly remember turning 29, and then spending the following year dreading turning 30, which later turned out to be a cinch. (This was in 1992; I’ll wait.) This fall, I’m choosing to just get on with things. I have no interest in a repeat performance of the time I wasted 20 years ago – particularly if, as I suspect, 50 turns out to be a walk in the maple-free park.