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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt

Dry As A Bone

Coreopsis is a bright little yellow flower with vibrantly green, narrow leaves. It is NOT a hardy desert plant, so it is hard work keeping it alive in my New Mexico compound. Its Old Victorian meaning Always Cheerful is something I strive to live up to. So much so, I have a bouquet of Coreopsis tattooed on my right hip, a garden of hopeful "cheerfulness" I carry with me wherever I go.

Lately, the Coreopsis has not been doing well. I water it morning and night because of the summer heat, but the leaves take on a lackluster hue even in its shady location and begin to wilt before mid-day. Worried, I take advantage of an unexpected break in the weather - a cool, rainy day - and, with delicate fingers, dig around the whole plant and lift it out of the ground.

The roots on the edges of the plant have been soaking up water, but the center of the root ball is dry as a bone. Dry as a bone, despite twice daily waterings and 12 hours of drizzling rain. This plant has struggled to survive because only the edges are getting what it needs to sustain life. What I see is such a reflection of the last year of my life, I sit down to write about it. This is how the center of my soul became Dry As A Bone.

I married young, 18. Within two years, I had my first child and proceeded to have four more by the time I was 30. We frequently moved with my husband's job, living in tiny, rural communities. Depression began to plague me in high school, but it became a constant companion as the years went by. The effort required to get up every day, take care of my children, meet my husband's emotional and physical needs, and have some sort of social life for myself became an impossible task.

I began to define my life by what it wasn't. There was not enough money, time, energy, patience, wisdom, and love. There was not enough of anything and everything I was supposed to be. "Not Enough" settled on me as an identity, though I did not realize it at the time.

Anger became the way I coped with being not enough until my rages made me physically sick. I then began to cut myself off from all emotion. If I didn't feel, then it couldn't hurt me. I stayed there for a few years. It wasn't healthy, but it felt so very good not to be controlled by anger anymore.

With my children grown, my husband and I moved to New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment. My heart began to loosen in the sunshine, the lack of responsibility, enough money to go around, living in an artistically stimulating community. I got a job, my very first job REAL job! I began to see I was really good at some really cool stuff. My heart started soaking in the positive things people said to me, things I had heard many times before but could not absorb.

I still had that - dry as a bone - core, though, especially when it came to absorbing love from my husband. I just couldn't do it; it was too scary to let someone that close to me again. I knew my marriage was dying, and with it, so much good and so much beauty, but I didn't know how to open up that last part of me.

So… I left. I left my job. I left my husband. I left New Mexico. It was the most brutal nine months imaginable. I was ripped apart, reexamining everything in my life, and I was alone… only I wasn't. In my path were people, places, experiences, adventures, life lessons, heartache, restoration, all orchestrated by a Creator who knows me intimately and knew what was needed to restore my soul from the inside out. I returned confident in who I was, the value I brought to the world, my place in it. I received the gift of looking into the inner-most parts of myself and finally knowing what was needed to keep me healthy.

So today, I hold this little plant in my hands, knowing it needs what I needed just a few months ago. Gently, I pull it apart, expose the dry roots all matted in the dusty center. I submerge it in a bucket of water over and over and over until the entire root ball is saturated. Carefully placing the Coreopsis back in the ground, I make sure all the roots are spread out as far as possible, each one touching damp earth. I press the dirt firmly around it once again and sit back, satisfied. Always Cheerful, like me will spread cheer once again.

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