Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Plant Lady

It's the little things you do that make the big things happen. Mike Dooley
A year and a half ago a friend called me in distress. The 27 year-old woman who was renting one of the condo's she owns had committed suicide.
My friend needed help. Overwhelmed by the process of organizing with the young woman's sister for the removal of items the sister wanted -- that she would take back east -- my girlfriend was at her wits end as to what to do with the remaining items. "I called the shelter to come pick everything up," she said, "but there was a mix-up and now, I have to get it out of there so the painters can get to work and I don't know what to do."
Not to worry, I told her. I'd get my daughter and her boyfriend to come over with his pick-up truck and take away whatever was there. We can put it in the garage until you figure out what you want to do with it.
And that is how my bedroom came to be filled with beautiful plants.

That is is how I came to remember the joy in caring and tending for houseplants. And the gifts of life growing and blossoming everywhere around me.

Before my daughters were born I loved cultivating houseplants. My home was filled with greenery. I treasured their beauty and revelled in the joy of greenery all around.

And then... life got busy. Two daughters eighteen months apart. A dog. Two cats. A husband who wanted to keep climbing and skiing and back-country escapading every weekend. Working full-time. Writing. Entertaining (at the time I also hosted a cooking show on local TV as well as ran a cooking school with a girlfriend) Training for a marathon. It all got overwhelming.

Something had to give. It was my plants that gave. Up. They couldn't water themselves. They couldn't clip and prune and fertilize their leaves. They had to go.

And gradually. One by one. They went. Some went of natural causes (perhaps hurried along by lack of love and attention). Others found new homes but eventually there was not a living bit of greenery in my home. I did buy a few stalks of the silk variety -- but they never really made the grade and were reminders of my failed horticultural history. The silk plants went too.

And always, I missed my plants. Felt guilty for having given them up. And always, I told myself... I don't do plants. If they can't feed and water themselves, I don't do plants.

And then, my girlfriend asked for help and in that act of giving, I received a gift of life.  I went to the condo with my daughter and her boyfriend and there was this big box of plants sitting on the kitchen counter with a note: Looking for a home -- and I wondered, can I? Should I? What if...?

 I gave them a home. And they have given me so much more.

I never met the woman who rented the condo and ended her own life so abruptly. I never met her sister who swept in, and swept out the condo leaving behind these precious pots filled with life. 

But I know the woman. I know this woman who couldn't keep living. She is here. In my room. She lives in each precious pot of greenery that graces the bay window by my bed. She is in the Begonia by the kitchen window. The Aloe hanging above the sink.

I couldn't let these plants die. I can't. I nurture them and water them and fertilize them and clean their leaves. I talk to them. I open the blinds every morning and invite the sun to stream in and inspire photosynthesis to take place. I invite the air to breathe into their leaves. For the process of respiration/expiration to transform the air I breathe.

And now, my plants are blossoming. Little flowers are appearing. Shoots giving off life. There is magic and wonder and beauty all around.

And in the gift of these plants, I have received many more gifts. A woman who was losing her home, whom I'd gone to see to give her cat food for her kitties, gifted me with a plant. "Please take this plant," she said. "I don't know where I'm going but I'd like to think the plant is safe with you." My sister and her husband bequeathed me a couple more. The ficus in my home office came from a doctor who was retiring and had no room to take his treasured ficus home.

I am becoming surrounded by greenery, by life breathing life into the air. I am becoming.... The Plant Lady! and I am happy! :)

It was just a little thing -- to rescue a few plants. It has grown into so much more.


Valerie Kamikubo said...

I love the photo of the cyclamen all warm inside while there is snow outside... beautiful story, Louise.

Maureen said...

I've never had much luck with begonia or violets, though the Christmas cactus, now about to bloom, is thriving. I still have the plant for the very first Mother's Day I ever had. That one, now 23 years old, means the most to me.

S. Etole said...

The wonder of growing things ... how much life that young woman must have had in her.

Anonymous said...

What a good story. It becomes you :-)

Fi said...

I can see you as a plant person - nurturing plants and enabling them to grow strong and sturdy.

Much as you do with people :-)

Angela said...

Love the story of the plants. How beautiful. Several years ago, a woman across the street killed herself and wasn't found for a few days. I never met her, but I saw her estranged husband and children coming and going and I wondered what her life was like, that she could end it with children alive to remember. Because people do remember, for a long, long time. My grandfather killed himself when I was 8 years old and my father was about 30 and both of us still remember and rarely speak of it. It changed both of our lives. Thank you for caring for the plants. Somewhere, I hope her spirit is thanking you.

Jane said...

Your plants look beautiful......and I remember when you had plants and more plants and more plants......and then they thrived also......so happy that they are bringing you so much enjoyment.....jane