Flowers without roots

img_2068People often ask what Mark and I do with our days here in Torrevieja. It’s a fair question; in an earlier incarnation, both of us would have been madly busy, practicing law and taking care of our then four-person, multi-feline household. Lawyering days are behind us now, and our household is smaller and quieter. Sometimes, subtly or not, the question is really whether we’re bored yet. The short answer is no. So if that’s all you wanted to know, you are liberated from reading further. If you want an executive summary, here goes: we do the usual stuff that people do to stay alive, and then we have fun (except when we have fun beforehand). If you want the EP version, as well as an explanation of the title, keep going.

Of course, we are often not in Torrevieja. You may have read some of the posts here about our encounters with planes, trains, and automobiles, so a recap of where we’ve been seems unnecessary. I’ve learned a lot by and about traveling this year, including the ubiquity of Circle K stores and how lovely it would be if people walking in airports came with brake lights. So few people use turn signals on highways that I won’t even bother wishing for them.

But what do we do when we’re not traveling, getting ready to travel, or recuperating from travel, i.e., washing suitcasefuls of clothes. The answer, I’m afraid, is terribly pedestrian.

We live much as we did in Austin, although with a different cast of characters and some Spanish twists. Consider, for example, grocery shopping. On Fridays, we do go to a market with hundreds of stalls where we buy a lot of produce for the upcoming week. That’s different. But we for most items we go to a local grocery store. I don’t shop every day, but a couple of times a week I grab my trolley (the kind that’s like a shopping bag on wheels, not the Mr. Rodgers variety) and walk the few blocks to Manper. Admittedly, the tortillas I buy are frittatas, although you can purchase Mexican tortillas there as well if you’re hungry for tacos. But normally the Manper list includes exotica like bread, eggs, milk, and cereal. I pay with my credit card, which I tap on the screen of the handheld payment device, and murmur my thanks to the checker. My path runs along the seaside promenade, so the Mediterranean keeps me company while I pull my trolley home.

So we shop and clean and cook and run errands, just like everyone we know here and in the USA. But we also have a lot of fun. We’re attending a lovely Church of England congregation, and we see friends from there at Sunday services and Tuesday morning Bible study. I’ve talked about the expat organization, the U3A, which hosts lots of enjoyable activities. We go to its Thursday coffee at a local bar, and I belong to a monthly book group. Mark has joined a local choir. We see friends for coffee, drinks, or meals. We’re going to the symphony in October with another couple- Mendelssohn and Beethoven, how great is that? – and we’ve joined a Thursday night Spanish/English language exchange group that also gets together for dinners and weekend events. We did go to a meet up at a local bar last Saturday, although the fact that everyone else in the group smoked and that a woman dropped dead in the bar about halfway through the evening made that experience less than optimal (especially for the poor woman, God rest her soul).

So groups are fun and provide a good way to meet people. But Mark and I have individual hobbies as well. Mark plays the guitar, for example. I am the happy beneficiary of many lovely serenades. For me, reading is a lifelong passion. My first book love was and is detective fiction, but lately historical fiction has loomed large on my to-be-read list (which is roughly the length of Santa’s naughty-and-nice list). Some of these books are ones we shipped, but many are checked out electronically  from libraries in the USA. So I’m current on Maisie Dobbs, Sebastian St. Cyr, Lady Sherlock, and Guido Brunetti. I’m reading the new Brooklyn Wainwright and am in the queue for Armand Gamache. Life is good!

One other thing I like to do, though, has been a little more challenging here. In the USA, tending to plants has been a hobby since college. It all started with little smudges of greenery in tiny pots propped precariously on my half of the dorm room windowsill at the University of Texas at Austin. As my living spaces grew bigger, my plant collection did, too, until in our big family house in Austin I had a miniature jungle in our living room and more on the back deck. But now I’m back to a select few in painted pots on the balcony. I bought a rosemary, which is blooming happy purple flowers at me, and a Sansevieria trifasciata, aka mother in law’s tongue. But I also picked up a couple of bits of a succulent that grows along the edges of the beach, rooted them in water, and planted them; they seem happy with the arrangement, and I admit to a special fondness for plants that just show up in my life.

That brings me (finally, some may be saying) to the title of this post. I found a couple of orphan cuttings on the street about a week ago and tucked them into the grocery trolley described above. It’s a variety of spiderwort called purple heart. Like us, it’s a long way from home, being native to the Gulf Coast region of eastern Mexico. I’ve given it the benefit of my vast horticultural expertise, which is to say I put the stems in a glass of water. They seem happy and make these lovely little pinkish flowers that open in the morning and shut themselves up for sleep overnight. Tiny white threads are poking up delicately from the leaves and stretching towards the sunshine. But no roots are appearing at the bottoms of the stems. So here’s the question: how can you have flowers without roots?

I don’t know how, and yet obviously it’s possible. This situation reminds me of Mark Twain’s reply to the woman who asked him whether he believed in infant baptism; he’s reported to have responded, “Believe in it? Madam, I’ve seen it!” Maybe, in fact, my Mark and I are doing precisely the same thing. Our roots are in the USA, in Texas.  Being American is in our DNA. But right now we’re here, in the water, and we’re living a great life. Our happiness and contentment are our flowers, and our rest at night is peaceful. Maybe roots will come later. I don’t know that, either. But for now, our life in our glass, in Torrevieja, is a very happy one.

So come visit us! 😉



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