#3: Write a Letter to the Plant in Your Apartment and Tell It Why It Needs To Live
Your parched, stifled suffering is emblematic of so many things. Why do we take so many of your kind, stuff you in little pots, and perch you on windowsills or near sliding glass doors? “I want something green,” or “I want something alive/colorful” is what so many people would say.
And who could blame them? In our relentless paving of the earth, so many of us see so little of things that are alive and truly colorful, rather than just sporting a coat of paint. Traveling in small metal cages to buildings that are all stone, steel, drab colors and right angles, sitting under the harsh visual blare of fluorescent lighting all day, commuting past the monotony of gas stations and the false vibrancy of reds and big letters in one strip mall after another: we know it ain’t alright. Plants are good, we think. They are a reminder, however small, of the natural world.
But isn’t it funny (not for you, of course) how we can’t even get that small gesture right? So many of you sit there for months, alien and alone next to our ridiculous couches, tvs, and ugly-ass lamps, drying out until you die, and sit there still, forgotten even in your state as a dead eyesore. People love the trite metaphor of the flower growing out of concrete (as if we don’t make the concrete), but in our own apartments we can’t even approach that level of responsibility. At least in the concrete sidewalk, rainwater and basic nutrients can seep into the soil through the cracks. Our apartments are a true wasteland for plants, and a metaphor for how we think of “green” things: visual reminders of something primordial, like the tree-line on the edge of town. “I’ve got to get some fresh air and get out for a walk” we think for two minutes. “Fuck, it’s been too long.” Meanwhile, we are ignorant that even that tree-line goes only for a hundred yards before clearance is happening for a bland subdivision.
But I DO need you to live, plant, in spite of these things. There will come a day soon, I know, when I will get out of this apartment, and live in a place with more green, maybe even real trees in a yard. I (and many people in general, I think) need to start small, and if I want my garden someday, as I know I do, you are the best introduction to the care of mute, growing things that I could have. It can be easy to forget that I will be out of this apartment and that I need not live the life I lead forever. So few of us blundering humans think of the long-game, beyond this job, this lease, this little period in this short life, with all its minor drama. You remind me to keep that long-game in mind, and the bigger picture of our very real relationship with the earth, water, and the sun. I’ll get my shit together, today maybe– the first little step can always be today. I can recall so many of those first little steps in my life, and how much progress has been made from them: clumsily fucking up simple recipes in my kitchen, yelling at my students the first few weeks of my teaching, struggling with an 18 pound bar in my first few days of strength training as a 14 year old. Someday I’m going to be talking with real depth about permaculture, growing things, and the joy of dirty hands that know the real workings of the life cycle on this planet.
Live on, little dude, for one more day. You don’t just remind me of the “green” from which we all sprang; you inspire me to reclaim more of that relationship in my life and to remember that I never thought it should be “this way.”
Let me take that first step.