Notes and Observations of My Houseplants
I. My plants always die of a mysterious cause and I don’t know why. It’s never the same cause or symptoms. Of course, all plants are different, with different wants and needs for each species and genus. That’s not the problem, I research my plants thoroughly before I purchase them. I map out their needs, what parasites they’re weak to and their individual needs – ferns, for example, quickly outgrow their pots while Pothos are very temperature sensitive – I have a designated place for a plant when I bring it home with optimal lighting and a backup pot for them to go into when they outgrow the first – I have been clinically diagnosed as a catastrophic thinker – and when leaves began to come up crispy after the move from coast to mountain, I bought a humidifier, a misting bottle, I moved a fern into the bathroom and showered with it, only to bring it back upstairs to ensure that I’d get enough sun. Why do I tell you this? I suppose all of this is to justify that this is not my fault. I’ve done everything I could.
II. My plants always die of a mysterious cause and I don’t know why. My trascendencia straight up died away from the root up, becoming dried up and, at the same time, squishy. I was able to cut the tips, propagate them, and replant them as if nothing had happened and it seems to be thriving. Maybe I let it grow too far. I have another variety of trascendencia with fuzzy leaves called baby bunny bellies. It’s grown a lot, but the soil is constantly bone dry no matter how often I water it. The vines began to grow crunchy and I assumed that the air in North Adams was too dry, but when I brought it backto my costal home town, it got even more unhappy, branches dying away in silence. I brought it to school with me and it immediately perked up, reaching up for the sunlight. I untangled it, cut away the dead leaves and it seemed mostly, happy. Maybe it just likes a change of scenery, or maybe it felt strangled, needed to lose a few vines. Sometimes I think they sense my mood when I water them. Maybe I was feeling a little strangled. I cut some things out, let some things die. I wonder if the plant feels guilty when it lets a branch die. Most plants look like one plant with a lot of vines, but actually, there’s a root system matting together, connecting plants by proximity. There was once an original plant, or group, or mother, and that reproduces near itself.
III. I’ve been stuck in my room due to quarantine for a few days and it has my mind wandering to summer. In the summer I grow a vegetable garden on my parent’s deck, and it always thrives. I find this insane because I’m growing it out of potson a deck that gets blasting sun and reaches over 95 degrees daily. I have to water the plants every day because the water evaporates, but I don’t mind. I like to spend time with things, do little rituals. I like to prune, to plant, to water. I used tomake a game, after class when walking home of finding a rock or feather to bring home and plant on my roommate’s desk for her to find later. This is something I find vegetables and herbs thrive under, but, maybe not people. Maybe not gardeners. I miss sitting in the sunlight, on the phone with friends. I miss picking suckers from between the branches of a tomato plant.
IV. When I began the semester, I was excited to have a room of my own, despite the cost. It’s comforting to have a space to yourself, a space to be strange and off-putting, to cry and have no one know of it. However, so quickly into the semester its emptiness has become a painful reminder. It is only a crying place. I haven’t had a room truly to myself in over four years and suddenly, the house is empty. Suddenly, I’m alone in a room I can’t leave without pet, plant or person for company. I thought about bringing my plants down here but they need more sunlight than I have been provided. Talking to people helps, but that’s something I’ve also been lacking. Most of my friends aren’t doing that well. When they do talk, it’s mostly about that, and I have to resist, in my ill and crank- iness, an urge to tell them that most of their problems are of their own creation. To say that I told them so. That’s when they talk to me. Recently, the size and number of my friend group has decreased. I have had the same best friend at home for over twenty years, and I met my roommate during an overnight before we attended college together. My ex-roommate, I suppose I should say. We almost made four years and people tell me that’s impressive, and sometimes we have to move on from people. Sometimes, we have to cut branches because they are feeding too much from the root and choking the rest of the plant out. I have never asked my plants if they miss the branch. If they sense it’s absence. If I’ve ever left them alone in my dorm for a long weekend in a house, dark and empty and silent, and if the place where that branch once grew becomes apparent and impossible to ignore, not unlike an empty desk pushed into the back corner of a bedroom. There is two of everything in this room and one of me. I tried to make it fun, to make the spare bed a couch, add a tv, but I’ve been unable to touch the desk where she spent most of her time. I wonder if, to the plant, the pruning seems sudden, without reason or warning. I wonder if I could better prepare them.
V. My mother says that plants die from over-mothering. Either because they are smothered, or because they become accustomed to it, and grow spoiled. They never have to create new growth or seek the sunlight, never produce flowers. In theinevitable absence of overabundance, they panic. They don’t know how to survive for themselves, to take nutrients already available in the soil, and they die out. When I first decided I was “into” poetry I moved from the classics to the very contemporary. I still have a Button Poetry subscription. One of my favorites of their writers is Sabrina Benam and a few stanza’s of my favorite poem by her plays in my head;
So, I’m at the grocery store because I feel sad. / I feel sad because nobody is in love with me. / Nobody is in love with me, but everybody loves me. / Everybody loves me because I’m good at making people feel good. / I’m good at making people feel good, because I’ve had a lot of practice on myself. / Practice on myself because I feel sad a lot. / I feel sad a lot, but when I make people feel good, I feel good for a little bit. / I feel good for a little bit and then I get lonely. / I get lonely and I am uncomfortable in my lonely.
In the face of almost a week in isolation, my practice seems insufficient. I lack others to make feel good and I don’t know what to do without that. I don’t know what to do without plants to water. I am learning to be comfortable in my lonely, Sabrina.
VI. When you have a plant long enough, you become attached to its presence. To the spot being taken up. No matter how it complains or loses leaves for seemingly minor reasons, or reasons out of your control, you go out of your way to care for it because you can’t stand the idea of it not being there. When last I went to Plant Connecter, I asked what sort of plants would thrive in my apartment, in the dark and dry and chill. I came home with a snake plant and placed it gently in the empty spot where my oxalis once sat. The oxalis I put outside. It had developed a soil infection that could spread to the other plants. I spent a lot on vitamins for the soil, new pots and time for a plant that simply wasn’t meant for my windowsill. Eventually, you cannot keep a thing on life support that refuses to thrive. Eventually, you need a place to cry.