Red, a love story

I first laid eyes on Red when he was on his last legs. Stunted, hunched and neglected, Red was clearly in need of love and care. But I snatched him up, not because I felt a need to do the right thing but because I was desperate for a sketch model and he was the only thing on offer.

I’ll back up a bit. Two years ago, I enrolled in an online art course that focused on botanical drawing. The homework assignments were plentiful and challenging. I loved it but I’ve got to say that there were moments when I was in a real panic to lay my hands on good subjects–fresh plants and lots of them. This isn’t the easiest thing to do in the middle of winter in a small Canadian ski town. One assignment was an exercise in negative space (drawing only the spaces between and around an object) and I was fresh out of plants and down to the wire to get the image handed in on time. So I ran to the grocery store and found Red, a bedraggled anthurium.

My negative space study starring Red.

Back then, Red hadn’t been given his name yet. I remember wondering whether I should even bother keeping him after I completed the sketch (above). He was in pretty bad shape. Leaves torn and turning brown. Some broken stems. But I gave him some water, plopped him on a windowsill and basically forgot about him. Until it was time for our semi-annual trek across Canada. My guy and I spend summers in Ontario and winters in B.C., and we make the long trek to and fro every spring and fall in a pick up truck.

Meanwhile, spring had arrived and like every self-respecting anthurium, Red had started working on a nice big flower bud. Well, that was it. We couldn’t leave him behind when he was doing his best to be, well, a good anthurium. Back then, his pot was small enough to fit in one of the cup holders situated between the two front seats. So he got some nice in-direct light through the windshield. And he was short enough that we could effectively smuggle him into our motel room each night without looking like crazy plant-pet people. Even though that is exactly what we were becoming. One evening, exhausted from a long haul that day, Red was set down on a table in the hotel lobby while we checked in and we completely forgot about him. An hour later, ensconced in our room, I suddenly realized Red wasn’t with us. I flew out the door, down the staircase and into the lobby, mask-less, in the middle of the pandemic. I didn’t care. There was Red, making nice with some plastic palms, exactly where we had left him.

Red got his name as soon as the one bud he’d managed to produce was starting to swell. Yes, we’re aware of our profoundly unimaginative naming but, hey, it just seemed right.

Red in all his glory, June, 2021.

Red has been across Canada with us three times now. We no longer try to smuggle him into our room. He’ll sit on the reception desk as we check in, bold as brass. One receptionist complemented us a little nervously on our travelling plant. “Wonderful! So healthy!” We took it in stride.

Red is now close to two feet tall. His pot is large and heavy which makes accommodating him in the truck a little trickier but we manage. And we have to make a separate trip to unload him from the truck into our room each night. But he certainly makes for endearing travel photos. Red and my guy having a beer outside our room in Keewatin! Red balanced between us as we pass the longitudinal centre of Canada!

I’m not going to think about the time when Red gets so large that we won’t be able to take him with us. That day will surely come. But for the time being, he’s coming with us and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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