The thing about plants

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There are so many days that I look to my plants in my sun-room to prove that I am actually growing beautiful things.

Some days, I look at myself – my thought processes, emotional state, ease with which I can re-center myself – and feel like I’ve made zero progress. I still worry to the point of obsessiveness. I equate living with heart to living with loss, which spins me out into the stratosphere. Want to make me freak out and panic? Throw a little dash of “you’re going to lose this” or “you’re not doing the right thing” into my mental state and I’m there.

Hannah Brencher wrote a beautiful post recently about growing into “hell yes.” For me, I know that this applies to almost all areas of my life.

For a year now I’ve been craving a feeling of deep rooted-ness in my life. I was the wanderlust girl, the gypsy soul… but so much of it was just running away from myself, and I knew it. Last year I got hit with the worst depression I’ve ever experienced, and I didn’t even want to move off my couch. I stopped running and that was what barreled into me.

But along with that depression was a craving to feel the soil of my life, to really know my life by tending to it as I would a plant.

That was when the plants started showing up.

First, I bought an English ivy and a pretty little succulent. My kitten murdered the succulent right off after tasting the delicious leaves. But the ivy thrived. Then a friend gave me a creeping Charlie that I kept out on the porch all last summer until I realized it was dying out there. I brought it inside and put it on my altar and started watering it every day. I put my ivy next to it so it had a friend.

Somewhere in there I bought a basil plant so I could have my own basil. As a artisan chef of caprese salad (I could bathe in caprese, haha) I needed my own basil. So I got a basil plant, too.

Then I got a philodendron for my kitchen. I felt my little kitchen needed a spot of green, so I hung it from the roof there. But I kept forgetting to water it, so I finally transferred her to a spot in my sunroom, where she’s blissfully wrapped her vines around my reading chair.

My boyfriend gave me an orchid as one of his first gifts to me. It had a few beautiful blossoms, but part of the stem broke off because I was a little rough. I felt remorseful for my ways and so I patiently fed it water and watched in amazement as I saw it sprout a new leaf. I thought I’d killed it by breaking that part of the stem. Not so. Turns out it just needed some TLC.

Soon into my yoga teacher training (quite aptly named RootEd – obviously) I brought that same orchid to the communal altar. That weekend when I left, my teacher gifted me an amaryllis plant that she had that looked like it needed love.

I kept care of little Missy ‘Rillis and on the Spring Equinox, a green shoot popped up gloriously. I love synchronicity like that.

At this point I was catching the planting bug. I added in an African violet, a plant that I’ve had notorious issues with growing in the past. I almost killed her by putting her in direct sunlight. Now she’s slowly coming back from the grave after I set her a bit further away and stopped watering her so much. I’ll get her yet.

There’s a tender consistency that comes from growing things. You have to be patient. You’re training a new way of being, you’re coaxing a seed or a plant out of its shell. You need to give them just the right amount of water, just the right amount of sunlight. And when they burst up out of the ground, there’s a profound sense of satisfaction that you kept something alive.

Sometimes things die, too, but I’m mostly finding it’s for lack of care rather than from some mistake I made. I had a thyme plant that I killed 2 months ago because I didn’t water it enough. Poor baby. I just didn’t care enough to keep her watered.

My petunia right now is laying dormant after blooming all winter. She looks dead, but I know she just needs a rest. She had her growing season and now she’s a bit quiet. She’s an annual, so she’ll come back. I’m not worried.

I was sitting during my morning quiet a few weeks ago, asking myself what I really wanted (a question that haunts me, and that I’ve recently let go of to make more space). What came was that I wanted rootedness. And tomato plants on my balcony.

I am now the proud owner of 2 tomato plants that are lapping up sun on my porch. One has produced a few tomatoes already – it’s a yellow cherry tomato plant that’s more like a vine. Not surprising, I have an affinity for vines, there’s something about the way they twine around things like they just want to stay forever. The other plant I’m carefully tending to – water, fish fertilizer, sunshine – and hope-fully waiting for a harvest come August or September.

I’m learning a lot from my plants. About how to be consistent. To water gently every day, to pay attention to what they need, to care lovingly on a regular basis. It’s amazing how much grows in that environment.

It’s teaching me to be the same way to myself.

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5 Replies to “The thing about plants”

  1. ^_^

    I thought of starting a garden on my patio last summer. Maybe I should…I love growing things.

    I’m just afraid the cats will kill my attempts. 😛

  2. Really love this post and I so identify with it.

    When drinking I hated… so I HATED!!! gardening. Mow the grass and the bloody stuff grew back. Weeds grew where plants didn’t, plants died, others went madly out of control…

    In recovery whilst I’m not the greatest gardener I’ve learnt to like it and value it and understand it as a great analogy for how to treat myself too like you. I feed the lawn now. I have installed a water butt to allow me to water with rain water. I plant new plants, feed them, water them, look for bugs and things attacking them and take necessary action. I trim plants back when I need to etc. etc. Now I reveal in the few days in May my peonies bloom, knowing that their delicate blooms will only last a few days, or less if it rains hard on them. I’ve nurtured a fuchsia that looked dead back to blooming life. Planted passionflower fruits off a plant and got a new plant growing. Acknowledged defeat with old plants that simply aren’t thriving and replaced with new and a new optimism for them as they look to be established. This year I even created a whole new flower bed in one part of the garden long discarded in it’s original use.

    I do a bit of watering and weeding any day the weather allows me a few minutes out there. By doing that few mins a day keeps it feed, watered and in check. Much better than facing a jungle to hack through months later… it’s that a good analogy for recovery work

    1. I so agree! I know I have never had the energy before to care for a garden. It’s always been a bit of “why bother.” Now I’m finding something else in there, a touch of stick-to-it-ness that is new and really interesting. It certainly echoes my inner journey and I agree, it is a great metaphor for recovery.

  3. I’m terrible at keeping plants alive. And currently live in an apartment where there’s no space (or sunlight) or them. But I’m hoping to give having plants another go whenever you move to a bigger or at least brighter place.

    This is a lovely reflection on self-care.

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