John Scholvin

John Scholvin

still can’t fit a half-stack in the trunk

16 Nov 2020

series finale

My fourth attempt to grow a lemon tree in a pot, while far and away the most successful in the series, appears to be tracking to a denouement in the compost bin as did the other three before it. About a month ago, the edges of some leaves started turning yellow, and soon those discolored leaves would fall off. About two weeks ago, the small tufts of new growth near the top of the plant withered. This is similar to the failure mode of the previous attempts, though much later in the process. The plant is over three feet tall now, two feet in diameter at its crown, with the main stem being about 3/4" in diameter near the base. It was a sturdy little bush until it wasn’t.

It’s also going to be my last attempt. The conceit here, launched on some interminably dark and brutally cold winter day years ago, was to grow a lemon tree indoors, and given my rough time frame for escaping the Midwest, transplant it to a permanent, outdoor location in some warmer, future clime I’d be calling home. Growing the tree in the meantime would not only be something fun to do, and add some needed greenery to my office, but the tree itself would be a reminder of the goal. Last winter I found it especially effective to look at her as I slogged through the absolute worst “days” of the seasonal blackness. It was a reminder of a literally brighter (and warmer) day ahead.

But the plan I’ve always had for the long haul is changing. I’m still quite sure I need to find a warmer, sunnier place to be. That need is hard wired into my brain chemistry, and none of the therapies I’ve tried so far seem to help. No blue light or pill, nor any series of conversations with gifted shrinks, can match that feeling of stepping out of an airport in January without a coat.

No, it’s not the need for those precious photons that has changed; that waxes, not wanes. What’s new is where I want to be standing as they find my face. The old plan, never all that firm, was to land some place in California or possibly New Mexico to put down roots—the tree’s, and my own. Except that doesn’t feel far enough away anymore. It’s no longer just the sun I seek. There’s now an overwhelming, sometimes all-consuming urge to flee. It keeps me up at night, and when I do sleep, it’s the first and last thing I think about every day. I don’t belong here. I can’t do this, not like this, and it sure as hell isn’t going to get better, or even stop getting worse for very long.

There’s no escaping right now for all kinds of reasons, but in the next five to ten years, most of those realities will¬†change. I don’t want to speak it too directly into the ether, because that feels like the sort of karmic bet that would be foolish to place. Even saying this much feels too daring. Any number of things could change that would make this irrelevant—health, wealth, family circumstances, civil disorder, climate disaster. There will be changes, and plans often turn yellow and die, just like leaves. One thing is certain, though, and it’s that you generally can’t bring live plants through customs and immigration.