There’s a large red poinsettia plant sitting on my flat files. It survived my recent week away in Costa Rica with no problem, and besides a small Christmas tree that one of my daughters made from mussel shells and a clay crèche crafted by a friend, it is part of my meager Christmas display. As a child growing up in Southern California there was an entire wall of Poinsettias on one side of the house, and it seemed to bloom interminably. My mother, whose art form was flower arrangement, would bring some indoors, cut the milky stems and burn them in the flame of the gas stove to make them last. A native Californian, I did not fully appreciate the splendor of this mass of red leaves that cheered the balmy winters and often decorated the rooms of our house.
But like other things in life that were once experienced on a grander quantitative scale, I now cherish this one plant and its rich color and make sure each day that the dirt around it is kept damp. It isn’t lost on me that my enthusiasm for it is out of whack when I consider my former half-hearted interest in my mother’s treasured scarlet blooms or that my depth of appreciation for the things in my life has expanded as the number of them shrinks. In my creative life as well, where once I had paintings in process on a number of easels at once, now I usually work with one easel and sometimes draw on a flat surface or with a sketchbook in my lap. I don’t save everything, as I was inclined to do, and only develop an experiment that has some promise and that I truly want to concentrate on, the main criteria being that it pleases me. What pleases me right now seems to be that one intrepid poinsettia. Though I have never painted flowers or leaves (really) perhaps I will ultimately be forced to make an exception.