Welcome to the Drought

Oct 25, 2015

600px-Rosa_MermaidAlthough the condominium I used to share with my Eventual Ex is located in the urban heart of Old Pasadena, the grounds resembling a set from “The Secret Garden.” Behind the gates, like a seascape sculpted for a Rose Parade float, are pastel dunes of blossoms, a clock tower, fountains, and streams that course over star-encrusted rocks while petals blizzard.

Yet author Robert C. Gallagher wrote, “Change is inevitable—except from a vending machine.” And, as I learned when I stopped by the condo not so long ago, Mother Nature’s vending machine is currently not only refusing to pony up but has gone belly up. Planters spill dirt, fountains whimper, my green-legged friends are straw, and there isn’t a petunia or impatiens in sight. The California drought has hit home.

The roses, however, are holding their own—and I love this. How, in the City of Roses, the roses still blossom.

Actually, roses are fighters well beyond the confines of Orange Grove, California or Rosemead Boulevards. Roses have been found flourishing in dilapidated farmhouses in Louisiana, along fences in Missouri, and even in abandoned cemeteries in Texas. And roses will eternally line your garden path, too—so long as you nix the hybrid teas. What you want are roses with experience, with innate wisdom, “heirlooms” who came into being before 1867.

“Every (old) rose has its own personality,” says self-professed ‘Texas Rose Rustler,’ Mike Shoup, who has made propagating old roses his life’s mission. “They’re the best of the best…Unlike modern varieties, most old roses come with a fragrance that’s as important as their appearance. Once you smell that rose, you’ll always have its scent in your memory.”




At this, my antennae wiggled like a doggy’s tail. As I have written before, roses are my teachers. Ancient symbols of balance, roses have helped me make peace with and meld my two lives in California and Texas.

It occurs to me that, just as old roses have presence and deathless scent, so, too, do people with old souls…good souls, wise souls, holy souls. The Catholic Church calls it osmogenesia or “the odor of sanctity.” The lineup of saints said to have had it includes St. Francis, St. Teresa of Avila, and Padre Pio. St. Augustine, who even wrote these lines about it:

Thou didst breathe fragrance upon me,
and I drew in my breath
and now do I sigh for thee.




For me, a garden is a cathedral, a tree an altar, a lagoon a baptismal font. Whether it comes packaged in the humid, heavy wrapping of a Dallas summer or is festooned with the crisp ribbons of breeze that grace garden-variety California mornings, I not only “sigh for” the aroma of the Divine, I quaff it. I yearn to swirl into it, like a smiley face of cream atop a latte. Currently, any perfume I emit comes from a bottle. Show me how to conjure up some from within, please!

Hence on my bucket list is a field trip to Rose Rustler HQ – otherwise known as the Antique Rose Emporium Nursery in Brenham, Texas. Doubtless I will return with as many roses as my community garden in Dallas can tolerate, but what is far more important is where I journey from there. Will I remain a hothouse hybrid, or will I become a survivor? Will I whine and wilt, or will I channel Dirty Harry? Make My Day, Drought.

On a whim, I googled my name and “rose.” Yet, while there is a Judy Garland rose (orange-yellow), an Elizabeth Taylor rose (pink), a Cary Grant rose (orange), a Barbra Streisand rose (purple), a Freddie Mercury rose (yellow), and a Duke and Duchess of Cambridge rose (apricot fading to white), there is no rose for plain old plebian me. (Or for Clint, for that matter.) There is, however, an Allium Jeanine. Alliums symbolize unity, humility, patience, elegance…all good stuff, except alliums are onions.

This is not quite the scent I was aiming for.

The good news is that, like heirloom roses, alliums are drought-tolerant. Which is a darn good thing when you’re in my line of work, frankly. Drought is as much a part of a writer’s life as a computer or thesaurus. Indeed I often remind myself of Audrey Hepburn’s character Suzy in the scary scene in Wait Until Dark…feeling my way blindly as, panicked, I flee the murderous demon called “I can’t write worth shit.”

Me: You said you wouldn’t hurt me.

Demon: Did I? I must’ve had my fingers crossed.

Ultimately, Suzy stabs her demon. She and she alone rescues herself, just as only I can deliver myself from the piece of crap on the screen, discouraging me unto death. Writers Block – what Anne Lemott so perfectly christens “shitty first drafts” – will die. Like Suzy, I strive to slay my enemy before my enemy slays me.

It’s a tough battle; and the odds are spooky. As researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found, “Authors were also almost twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.” Hybrid teas include Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolff, David Foster Wallace, and Seneca. May the Force and the words of Phil Donohue – “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” – be with me. May I remember that, with my luck, the moment there is no going back I’ll come up with the perfect adjective.


And so, I pray, are you. But even if a book deal leaves you cold, you’re no Heirloom by default. According to, high-risk professions include:

  1. Doctors
  2. Dentists
  3. Financial types
  4. Attorneys
  5. Cops
  6. Realtors
  7. Electricians
  8. Farmers
  9. Pharmacists
  10. Scientists




In other words, we don’t merely write “shitty first drafts.” We live them.

“So what’s your advice for me?” I once asked a friend during a dark time.

My friend paused, then replied with one word: “Patience.”

Easy for you to say, I huffed inwardly. But later that evening I passed a bookshelf, pulled out a book I never knew I had—Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift From the Sea”—and opened it at random.

Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as the beach. Waiting for a gift from the sea.

“Transform frustration with patience,” advises Judith Orloff, author of “Emotional Freedom.” “Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation but power…waiting, watching, and knowing when to act.”

THIS TOO SHALL PASS. An El Niño of a solution will present itself.

Increasingly, I am convinced that we walk hard (impatient) walks in order to become more empathetic, compassionate guides for others. As Buddhist monk Shantideva wrote 13 centuries ago:

May I be a guard for those who need protection,
A guide for those on the path,
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the floods.




But, sometimes The Sea washes up a jellyfish—and, I don’t care what Anne Morrow Lindbergh says, this is no gift. Jellyfish sting. Jellyfish leave whippings of welts.

The Mayo Clinic tells us what to do next. “Remove stingers.”

A friend likens this to emptying your overly heavy backpack on to the bed, surveying what’s there. What is weighing you down, complicating your journey? What holds you back, causes your shoulders to ache and bruise? Whatever it is, toss it.

I liken it to Paris.

My daughter and I had booked a Chocolate Walking Tour. Heaven for a chocoholic. Hell when your feet hurt. Then, lo and behold, in a storefront I saw sandals.

“But it’s cold!” my daughter protested. Temperatures hovered in the 50s and 60s, and it was often raining.

“I don’t care,” I said.

Without a backward glance, I flung my old binding, blistering shoes into the first trashcan we passed. Every exit is an entry somewhere else, said playwright Tom Stoppard. What works for doorways, works for shoes.

The maker of my lifesaving sandals, Mephisto, caught me up short at first. Mephistopheles is another name for Lucifer—yes, that Luciffer, “the morning star” who fell.

Am I Mephisto? Have I remained in situations, thought patterns, relationships that inevitably sent my fresh, best, shining intentions spiraling downward, down…down…down…until all that was left was something hard, wretched, petty, rotting, scheming, simmering, frustrated?

A drought-stricken friend I tried for years to help once called me “manipulative,” which pissed me off and hurt deeply at the time. But perhaps she had a point. I’d have done damn near anything to water that parched plot of humankind’s heart called hers.

Sometimes, however, you simply have to accept that the hose ain’t never gonna work.

Only the heavens can rain.


Allium moly jeannine

Allium moly jeannine


Copyright © 2015 “Scribblings, Week 45: Welcome to the Drought” by Jenine Baines









“Scribblings, Week 45: Welcome to the Drought” is part of a series of monthly nonfiction musings that Jenine Baines will be sharing with HP readers.

Enjoy more of Jeanine’s work in “Write Here”:
Scribblings, Week 41: Welcome to the Langham
Scribblings, Week 39: Welcome to Boot Camp
Welcome to Pasadena, Where Everything Is Perfect
Scribblings: Week 25
Scribblings: Week 15
Scribblings: Week 14
Scribblings: Week 13
The Rabbit in the Moon
Sorrow Tree
The Deflowering of Silence
The Morning the Egg ExplodedToo Beautiful
May I Have This Last Dance, Mr. Banana Nose?
Into the Bay Forever
No Two Blades of Grass
How Long Is Never?
Golf Course
Too Beautiful
Oh, to Sing




King's Ronsom rose by Yoko Nekonomania, CC Creative Commons, 2.0 generic

King’s Ronsom rose by Yoko Nekonomania, CC Creative Commons, 2.0 generic


Photo, top right, rosa mermaid by Anna reg (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 at (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, Charles de Gaulle purple rose by Rexness from Melbourne, Australia (Charles de Gaulle Detail) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, Claude Monet rose by Georges Seguin (Okki) (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, Princess Diana of Wales rose by Yoko Nekonomania (Rose, Diana Princess of Wales) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, rosa Audrey Hepburn by T.Kiya from Japan (Rose, Audrey Hepburn, バラ, オードリー ヘップバーン,) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of edelrose by Leander Schiefer LeSch (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of allium moly jeannine by Clematis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, of Alinka rose, below, by Yoko Nekonomania, CC Creative Commons, 2.0 generic.


Silva rose by Yoko Nekonomania, CC Creative Commons, 2.0 generic

Silva rose by Yoko Nekonomania, CC Creative Commons, 2.0 generic





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