If your cement cracks. . .

Plug it with a plant.

A whole new twist on cement planters.

If the concept of reincarnation as making you do it over and over again until you get it right is correct, I think what I’m here to understand is bloom where you’re planted or joy in spite of it all.

The plant depicted above lives in a cement courtyard of a housing complex for Huntington’s formerly-homeless. I work near the complex and have occasion to stand on the “smoking veranda” and chat with some of the tenants.

They’re an amazing bunch – a fair amount of Vietnam vets, a fair amount of alcoholics, many of them disabled, and most of them strangely optimistic about life. Their apartments are tiny and most of them take pride in keeping them neat and orderly only in part due to monthly inspections. [Hmmm. . .maybe I need a monthly inspection around here.]

I get tickled with their homemaking at times and I’m not sure why. There’s one guy – a tall, wiry fellow with dark, burnished skin and an ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth, who dons an old-fashioned woman’s apron every time he mops his place – which is daily. But he’s the exception. Other acts and conversation about apartment maintenance are only a little weird (alcoholism is rampant). For the most part, it’s routine “so, what did you use to get your drip pans clean?” Maybe it’s because the majority are men – which makes me sexist, I guess.

One day I got to witness the group collaboration on the making of a Duncan Hines box cake. One had the pans, another had the oil, but no one had an egg. The consternation was great. (I told them to forget the oil and use mayonnaise instead – really, it works.) Nobody had mayonnaise either. Eventually two of them went to the Kroger to procure eggs – hoping, as they left, Kroger would have half-dozen cartons. Man, we only need 1 egg, I’m gonna shit if we have to buy 12.

It’s not all happiness and Mayberry on meth out there, but I’m always surprised. And for whatever reason, they would die before they would let anyone harm me. I’m treated with great respect and the times I’m subjected to coarseness and ribaldry are few (and sweet in a twisted way).

So. Here these guys are living in this place. They had to hit rock bottom to qualify. Most of the time, they’re cheerful. (40s are only a part of it.)

Every year, someone plants a green, growing thing of one variety or another in a large cement crack that chips and gets a little bigger every year.  Last year it was petunias. And last year, I could never remember to bring the camera to take a picture of those glorious purple petunias spreading over the concrete. This year’s plant is familiar, but I can’t quite dredge up what it’s going to be.

These plants are smile-provoking and, given the circumstances, probably require a great deal of care. I’ve been intrigued by the planting for several years now. I think the moral is if your cement cracks, plug it with a plant.

Not bad advice.

5 thoughts on “If your cement cracks. . .

  1. Is it Balsam, also known as Touch-Me-Not? That’s what it looks like to me. Strangely poignant in its own way.

    I would love to work with guys like these. I know them. I’m married to one. Although no addict and certainly not homeless, he’s a Vietnam vet and like the men you describe in many ways.

    • Balsam? Hmm, I don’t know. It seems like something I have growing somewhere and I’ve never grown balsam. I really need to find out who is doing the planting.

      My dad did 4 tours in ‘nam — I have a soft spot for vets. 🙂


  2. Great post! I love watching where the flowers find their way up through the cracks on the dried desert floor. But intentionally planting in cement cracks is a reminder of the spark of the human spirit.

    And I hear you on the cleavage front. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was for me when Playtex came out with the half-size bra. Now a bra I can fit into, the 32 Nearly A!

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