Perennial: adj.

1: present at all seasons of the year
2: persisting for several years usually with new herbaceous growth from a perennating part <perennial asters>
3 a : persistent, enduring <perennial favorites> b : continuing without interruption : constant, perpetual <the perennial quest for certainty> <a perennial student> c : regularly repeated or renewed : recurrent <death is a perennial literary theme>


I’ve been quiet lately.


Feeling pulses through me more than words, and I find myself drawn to perennials–echinacea, elecampane, comfrey, lemon balm, mint.  In my garden, I’m sure I’m somehow killing the spearmint, transplanting it rootbound into dry, undernourished soil, not watering it enough, and watching the bright green leaves turn brown at the edges, before finally coming to it with compost and a full watering can–an offering and apology at once.  I learn that even mint, a notorious spreader, has to draw in before exploding across the garden, sharing its coolness.  I’m sorry, I say, and I kneel down to press my finger into the soil, seeing how far the water has traveled, and if it has quenched the roots.

Persistent.  Enduring.  Grow, little spearmint, grow.  Please.

Death is a perennial literary theme.  How can I ask you to grow now, when I, too, draw in sometimes. Spring cleaning has passed, but again I strip down and clear out.  Again I breathe into the cavernous lungs, the temple of the belly, the hard but porous bones.  I breathe all the way into my fingerprints, reclaiming every nook of space with emptiness.  There is no room for anything else.

Continuing without interruption.  I bought spearmint seed this year, only to learn it does not grow true from seed; it is better to propagate from cuttings and root divisions.  Spearmint grows by continuously sending out new shoots, and given the space, it will take over your garden, but I found established plants and transplanted them anyway, breathing in refreshment all the while.

Perennial quest for certainty.  This happens every now and then, this clearing out, this reclaiming of emptiness.  It comes suddenly, when I realize that I cannot walk through an open door while carrying everything in the room with me.  Doors are not made that big, and purposefully so.  Sometimes I get caught in the notion that expansion is beauty, forgetting the stark clarity of contraction until an opportunity opens up and the only way to take it and walk through the door is to leave everything else behind.

Renewed.  It is raining.  Water, falling from the sky instead of the can, and the spearmint, which was already beginning to perk up, smiles.  Green is reclaiming the plants that had begun to turn brown, and new stalks reach out horizontally and then turn upward to the sky.  We all contract sometimes.  It is necessary.  But we persist.

Present at all seasons of the year.  I’ve been quiet lately, and feeling pulses through me more than words as I learn to listen with my whole body: breathing into the caverns of my lungs, the temple of my belly, the strength of my bones, and crevices of my fingertips.  I find myself drawn to perennials, how they seem to breathe a long slow breath in and out, expanding and contracting; how they come back every year; how they never really leave; how they remind me it is okay to draw in before burgeoning out into the world.

Spearmint, photo by White Flower Farm