My friend Ken is getting evicted. He calls me to ask if I want any of his plants. On the deck are a motley of potted plants: geraniums, gerberas, bird of paradise, cacti, bougainvillea, etc. I feel dismay on several levels. Primarily because he is losing his home of over thirty years. Secondarily, I don’t have homes for more than a few of the plants. (If anyone has a spot for well-loved potted plants, raise your hand.) He hates the idea of them being trampled in the construction crush to ensue. He has been given a choice: a buyout and evacuation by the end of June, or get Ellis- Acted, which means a pittance for moving expenses and a year to scram.

Where will he go? “I have no idea,” he says. He tells me he is not sleeping, he is so anxious.

Last weekend I got into a conversation about the transformation of the city, a conversation ever more frequent and futile. “Most cities would kill to have the kind of problems San Francisco has,” a woman from out of town said. The problems of too much money, I supposed she meant and I saw her point, in the abstract. In the specific, Ken is losing his home, his community his garden, his friends the bluejays who come for the peanuts he puts in the crooks of the myoporum tree. He asks if I can find a home for the lilac. A beloved friend gave it to him before he died.

The lilac is almost ten feet tall. I tell him I’ll take it, knowing it will be mauled in the process of digging it up and transporting it to the street and then into someone’s back garden, knowing also that lilacs are resilient and with some luck will survive the brutality.

I pray the same can be said for Ken.



  1. If the lilac is still looking for a home, and if Faro thinks it would do well in my backyard space, I would love to try to love it into thriving past the uprooting. “Lilac?” is one of four plants on my list headed “In Place of the Big Tree.”

  2. Dominic Martello

    Oh sad. Poor Ken. I’ll try to contact him although that can be quite the challenge.

  3. Sad commentary on life today.      However,    YOUR caring for both Ken and plants make a very big difference!!!     Will see you soon!     Coming to Elizabeth’s on May 18!!!! Joy!! Joanne Joanne Gillis

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