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Whatever is the opposite of a green thumb, that's what I've got. A black hand, maybe? Not as sinister as the official Mafia, but in its own way just as devastating.
I have impeccably good intentions and, of course, everyone knows where they lead. A truism gets that reputation because it is true, and I am the living proof of that.
Once, some time ago, we had a long-term guest whose talent turned the most stubborn and recalcitrant plant into a prize at the next flower show. Under his benign care, our sitting room looked like an annex to a greenhouse. After he had swallowed his dismay at having cast his lot with a family that has no garden, he rolled up his sleeves and told us not to despair.
In fact, we had not previously noticed that we were living in a desert. There are plenty of trees in the street and we are next to the beach, so the paucity of our view had not been apparent until he transformed it.
In no time at all, every window sill had blossomed with bright colors and verdant greenery. Proud tulips stood steady on long stems straight as guardsmen; African violets spread delicate petals over empty shelves. Clusters of daffodils, vibrant enough to gladden Wordsworth's heart, waved their golden presence reflecting the sun. Delicate mauve hyacinths exuded a faint perfume into the atmosphere. Along the wall, creepers emerged incredibly from two tiny pots and soon inched their way and threaded the sitting room walls, creating a bower-like feeling of air and space.
Our guest was scandalized when he found out I was buying parsley at the greengrocer's. Outside the kitchen we had - for the picking - parsley, hyssop, rosemary, basil and several others whose use remain a mystery to me. At one end, a cluster of small round sweet cherry tomatoes drooped from their stems. These were highly prized in salad and rationed to one diner per meal.
Now, alas, this has all changed.
Our guest has gone to greener pastures, which he will certainly transform into Gardens of Eden, his mere presence causing trees to bear fruit and aphids to retreat, defeated.
Unfortunately, my presence has a negative effect. Something about my personality is inimical to growing things. I followed his instructions faithfully. These need water. I watered them. The same evening the rain started and it rained for three days. When out of pity I took them in, the very soil in which they were embedded disintegrated.
I was hopeful about the tulips, carefully spaced out and watched over anxiously. What rejoicing there was when one shoot appeared, pushing its way bravely through the extra layer I had given to protect them from even the mild winters we have here. More shoots appeared, and eventually a bud.
All visitors were brought in to see and admire, even those we did not know well, such as the men who deliver the groceries. They too thought this bud remarkable and a tribute to my skill. The stem made a great effort and reached half the height of its predecessors. The bud remained a bud. None of its four companions pushed their way up to keep it company. It stayed bud-like, til it shriveled and a bit of wind blew it away.
Two daffodils made three attempts and got as far as a show of yellow petals before lying down exhausted, without the strength to get up.
"Too much water," said some advisers. "Put them outside in the sun."
I put them outside. Then came a sharav (heat wave) so fierce that the boxes cracked open and the sides fell off.
Inside, I did no better. The vines festooning the wall clustering in corners, giving out a cool, green ambience became shorter and shorter. The ends became brittle. Leaves crackled and fell as water was apparently not being conducted through their veins and arteries. Eventually they retreated to their tiny origins and vanished.
If it didn't have such ominous overtones, I might put a notice on my door: "No flowers by request."
It's really a very kind and thoughtful impulse for friends and family to greet holidays and anniversaries with floral gifts, to bring a little color and brightness to enhance the day. And so it does. But not for long. My apologetic glance or whatever anti-floriculture emanates from it brings a fateful miasma to the most cheerful of bouquets.
No matter how I enthuse and express my thanks, Nature is not deceived. The block aura of anti-green that emanates from me causes the vine to wither on the stem. It is Fate.
You either have it or you don't.
What is it?
I wish I knew.