Native Son: Bless My Heart

Ugh…trash day. Just before dawn, I lug two bags, heavy with used kitty litter, to the street. My mind is numb, heavy with daily worries, as I lean over and set the bags down. Standing up…only now do I notice the bird songs filling the air in all directions. The songs land upon some little brain cell, triggering my memory to January, 1995…and instantly I am again standing at La Selva Biological Research Station in Costa Rica. The birdsongs of the morning are almost deafening and I laugh out loud with delight. Mother Earth’s orchestra. As I revel in this divided-by-decades, two-for-one moment, just drowning in raucous noise, somehow there is something that feels familiar about all of this. My subconscious is correct…many of the birds singing in Costa Rica in January are migrants that sing in Texas in May. Somehow, they sound even more beautiful in the jungle.

And…no. That connection between secondhand kitty litter and my own frivolous worries did not slide past me unnoticed. It almost brought me to tears. There is still plenty of stuff in the house (and my mind) that’s useful…delightful…beautiful…but there’s just some stuff that has to go. Less is more, indeed.

Standing in the garden now, it all seems so clear. Simply removing the undesirable stuff does indeed make the beautiful stuff more lovely. The new emptiness opens up my senses and I am immediately filled with new awareness…and joy. Hmmmm…so this is how it works…

Continued Below

I can almost see my Type A, neo-minimalist friends clapping their hands and rejoicing that I have finally seen the light. Sorry, my conversion will be short-lived. My back-sliding will begin the first time that a proud minimalist shows up in need of “just a couple of screws to hang a few new harmony pictures.” In less than 5 minutes, they will walk back home with a five-gallon bucket full of screws, screwdrivers, a level, measuring tape, picture wire, wire cutters, needle-nose pliers, and complete oblivion to the fact that they got rid of all these things during their cleansing/decluttering ritual. It’s okay…I’m glad to help.

Poor Neil. He’s reading this and wondering when I’m going to get to something at least flirting with the fringes of horticulture. We all know I have put him through quite a lot over the years, but you don’t know that he has saved me from myself several times.

The Snowmageddon recovery. People tell me every day they are still holding out hope for some plant or another to miraculously show some sign of life. I try to be encouraging, yet realistic. Yes, miracles happen, but they are quite rare. But plants sometimes do appear out of thin air…it’s true. I’ll be ready when the minimalists come over to return my tools. “Oh my…could I get just a couple of Coleus… you sure got a lot of daylilies… ooooh, are those caladium bulbs?” Glad to help.

(Drum roll here…) My Sago Palms flushed out this week. There, I said it. I know…even I don’t believe it. But there they are, singing as loud as a Yellow-Throated Warbler sitting in a Guanacaste tree. Buried in that blanket of snow with tips sticking out back in February, I figured they were goners. I just left them there because I had so much else to deal with in the garden. One day I walked by and boom…they had leaves. Patience…virtue…yadda, yadda, yadda.

Funny how a little milagro goes a long way. I immediately start looking at the other miracles in the garden…and there they are. Hydrangeas, gardenias, calla lilies…and it goes on and on. Life is interesting that way. If you look for negativity, you will certainly find it. If you look for beauty, you will find it in abundance.

As for me, I find beauty in miracles, flowers, nature, sweet people, good food, and a whole lot of other things…including a clean cat box.

Left photo: Wendy Stoll shared this photo of one of her new kittens. Right photo: My dad giving treats to his cat, Jake.
Left photo: My little Sago Palms have miraculously emerged from their frozen stupor. Right photo: One of my cute-as-a-button hybrid Calla Lilies frolics in the ferns.



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I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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