st john s wort in close up photography

St John’s Wort and Christmas Trees

I have a sprig of St John’s wort in a vase by my window. It didn’t cost much, just a few bucks and according to the labels had been flown here all the way from Ethiopia. I wonder what a St John’s Wort farm in Ethiopia looks like? Are the people happy? Do they like farming flowers? I look over at the sprig and a sense of unwarranted hope washes over me. Perhaps it works after all. The berries are pink and glossy, the leaves are thick and green. According to folk medicine it is meant to cure depression, but I have no desire to chew on it. It is a happy looking plant. Sunflowers always look so depressed with their droopy heads and ragged petals. Roses fade fast, and when they do they have an atmosphere of the tomb about them, or at the very least a love affair turned cold. “You don’t bring me flowers…you don’t sing me love songs”…All of a sudden I want to hear Barbara Streisand sing that song. I have a soft spot for corny ”70s easy listening. Give me the funny girl, give me Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers singing Islands In The Stream…give me that ‘peaceful easy feeling’ that the Eagles talk about. I don’t want to think no more.

It isn’t to say that I am depressed or down. I am not that kind of gal. Defeated is probably more like it. Tired. Hopeless. I hear time ticking down to the Big End, and I don’t like it much. I am treating this Christmas like it is my last, or at least close to being my last one. The Boy is growing up, and sadly that means it is getting closer to the point where I will have to say goodbye to him and hope that he has a good life ahead of him. I will have to go to my fate, which I have long delayed, and when I do I don’t want to hear no love songs, I don’t want to think about what was, and what could have been, I simply want to be allowed my privacy to mourn my happiness and possibilities and fade out to grey sitting in a fucking jail cell somewhere because I tried to save my own life and my children by running from that man. I won’t be taking calls. I won’t be answering letters. I won’t be talking or writing or anything else. I will be sitting facing a wall, trying to ignore every other fucked mother in there, and dreaming of the past. I would live in today’s eternal present if I only could.

I don’t see a way out let alone through, which is acceptable to me and the Boy. I have been thankfully treading water while I give the kid some time to grow up, but that can’t go on forever. Eventually even I have to let go of the side of the boat and float down into the murky depths of the unbearable future. But I did my best. I fought my hardest. I didn’t give up early. I am so very tired. So very, very tired.

I don’t consider myself a total failure. The Boy loves me immensely, is doing well at school and loves his home here with me. My Ruthie seems to think I am not totally appalling company. I went to war with the Patriarchy when I was a young woman, and now, a grizzled middle aged fighter, with rough hands and scars crisscrossing the topography of her body, I am still fighting. There is no end in sight. It is a war of attrition. I feel as if I am being eaten away by acid, layer by layer until nothing is left at all. I gave it my all.

I think I am so sad that all the St John’s Wort in the world won’t help me now. Not even entire farmfuls of it in some Ethiopian haven. I like to eat teff, a traditional Ethiopian grain. It is gluten free, and never sets my celiac disease off. The boy makes it into injera for me – a kind of bread. It is good at mopping up sauces and tastes earthy and good. I should feel thankful that I am relatively stable, that my health is holding out to some extent. I should, but I don’t. Instead all I feel is intense sadness at all the loss I have been through and all the loss that inevitably is to come. I don’t want to lose any more.

I want to have a normal middle age, full of family and grandchildren, busy houses and joy at seeing my son succeed. I am at peace with having lost half of my everything. There will be no celebration for the other one’s birthday. I will see it through quietly and move on to the next day. No one tells you when you become a mother you wear your heart outside your body. No one tells you that you will never have another day free of worry and concern. No one tells you just how much you will love and be loved…and just how risky loving that much is. Once you give yourself over to that kind of immense selfless mother-love nothing can ever be the same. Hopes, fears, futures, even pasts all loom over the day, an ever present threat to the everything you pour your life and days into. Things were never the same.

I put the Christmas tree up yesterday. It is a tiny little fake one from the discount shelves. I spent hours tying bits of red thread to tiny little resin decorations and suspending them from the branches. A snowman here. A Christmas wreath there. I offered a tiny little polar bear in a woolly hat and mittens to the Boy to hang from the tree. He just smiled at me and shook his head. He was busy, while I worked away trying to make the little 24 inch high tree look pretty. Hours seemed to go by as I tried to work out which damn bulb on the traditional string lights had blown out, rendering all of the damn things impotent. The lights finally lit up, and I stood back and felt happy with my work. I just wish I had got a bigger tree. The St John’s wort looked lonely by the window, so I moved the tree next to it. The window seat is a useful shelf. I put life there so it stand between me and the outside hostile world.

All the sweet things in the world, all the cranberry and apple pies, all the christmas trees and bright candles cannot drive the darkness away. The days have drawn in and I am feeling chilled to the bone.


      1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

        Glad to hear you are doing fine. I ignore the soccer. If it is not baseball then I am not interested in sport. I don’t mind the women’s soccer though, that can be fun. Nothing even happens in football. It is just deadlock and attrition – I find it so boring. Do you think Brazil will win? Japan did rather well…then didn’t. At least here the sun is shining. I might force myself to go out and walk or something. I just feel so fucking sad.

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