A Trip to the River and the Story of the Rogue Turnip

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, breezy, temperate Saturday, so the boys and I decided to take a drive down to Shelby County to see if we could find a deserted spot to sit out in the sun by the Cahaba River a little while and to see if the Cahaba lilies had started to bloom yet. They don’t usually show their faces until around Mother’s Day (the lilies, not the boys), but hope springs eternal and all that jazz.

Basically, we — mainly, me — just needed to get the hell out of the blankety-blank-blank house after being cooped up here for 6 weeks or have a complete and total crying, flailing, down-on-the-floor-kicking-and-screaming come-apart. Finding the flowers was just an excuse. As if one needs much excuse these days to (a) get out of the house or (b) have a high old hissy fit. 

We rode down toward Helena, Ala., where there is an access point for the river and some trails so that we could “engage in outdoor activities where fewer than ten people are involved” which is allowed under the shelter-in-place order.

It was there that I discovered one of the things that is so weird and upsetting about this whole pandemic thing. 

It looked for all the world like a normal Saturday. Yesterday was probably one of the most beautiful spring days you could ever imagine. The sky was blue blue blue and the white clouds drifted along on the breeze. The sun was warm but not hot. The birds called to each other with happy little songs. Families were on the beach laughing while the kids dug around in the sand. People were hiking and mountain biking. The parking lot was full. 

But it was not a normal Saturday. Hanging heavy over this Alabama spring day was the feeling that everything is decidedly not normal. Things are far from normal. Nothing about the day, the place, or us is normal anymore. 

And it might not ever be “normal” again.

Instead of Deep Woods Off, we brought spray sanitizer. Instead of hats, we had masks. We didn’t sit on the benches. We didn’t even sit on a rock. We didn’t even get too close to the water because other people were already in the accessible spots. We just watched it race by through the trees or from a distance.

And even just walking around things were different. If someone was approaching on the trail, one party would yield the path so that the others could be given a wide berth to pass. Several people even looked away as they passed, turning their germy, virus-filled faces away, but still muttering some pleasantry. The sight of the families on the beach in their little groups didn’t fill me with happiness. It filled me with fear for their safety.

I wanted to enjoy our little walk through the woods, but all I could think was that we probably shouldn’t be here, that everything and everybody is crawling with infection, and that there was danger all around. And not just your average rattlesnake, poison ivy kind of danger. 

A mysterious unseen, unknown threat hung over us like a great vulture circling overhead, its shadow crossing our path at every turn while it waited for death to come. 

So we did what reasonable people do when threatened — we fled. Back to the car and straight to the Jack’s drive-in where we sought comfort in milkshakes and french fries, eaten in the safety of the car in the parking lot. Then we came on back home, where I guess we’ll just stay for the foreseeable future. 

Although next weekend, those Cahaba lilies might just need me to check on them again. 

Here’s a weird thing I thought about last Friday. I was feeling very frustrated and really angry, so I decided to sit out in the sun on my balcony for a little to just chill out. It was there while contemplating our little container garden that I had this idea, which I shared on Instagram and Facebook. So many people responded to it, I thought you might like it too. I give you The Rogue Turnip

This is a story of resilience and inspiration. A couple of weeks ago, I found a rogue turnip rolling around in the back of my refrigerator’s produce drawer. I vaguely remembered buying turnips sometime way back before Christmas. Somehow this one had gotten loose. I noticed that even though it was shriveled and wrinkled, it had put out a few teeny tiny little leaves. Something in me just couldn’t throw it away, but something in me also didn’t want to put forth much effort to plant it. Isn’t that always the way — you want to help, but only if it’s not too much trouble. Anyway, I had a pot of old dirt from another plant that had not survived my tender loving care (read “neglect”), so I hollowed out a little hole and set the turnip in it. Before I knew what was happening, that danged old desiccated forgotten thing started growing. You could almost see it getting taller by the minute. In the spirit of full disclosure, Tragedy (that’s what I call my husband who’s resting frowny face is the opposite of my usual Comedy smiling face) was watering it since I immediately reverted to my neglectful ways. Anyhow, it put on more leaves and more leaves and then some little buds. And finally today, it bloomed! The turnip bloomed. I guess this little root is a lesson that you never know what random act might cause something — or someone — to blossom.

Who knows what will happen next week. I’ve gotten off my schedule and quit planning so everything will be a big surprise. Of course, I’m still working from home, so there’s that to fill the days. I should probably try to get back to my schedule though, because it seemed to help. We’ll see. 

Until next week, stay safe, stay in touch, and remember to bloom where you’re planted. I know I’m trying to.

p.s. I’m teaching a writing class!

If you are interested in writing creative nonfiction, I’m going to be teaching an online course UAB’s Alys Stephens Center and ArtPlay on Tuesday evenings May 5-26. We’ll learn some things, we’ll write some things, and then we’ll read the things we wrote to each other. It’s a lot of fun, I promise. Learn more about the class and sign up HERE. It’s only $40. Don’t wait though! There are limited spots available. I hope to see you there!

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