If you give me something green…

Fifteen years ago, a colleague gave me a rare African Violet. It wasn’t just ANY violet, either. It was an antique violet propagated from one of her plants. It had been handed down to her from her grandmother, who’d received a cutting from her mother. So, this particular plant is at least four generations old.

So what, you may ask. That’s hardly national news. You’d be right. It’s not. Yet, that one plant means so many deeper things.

My colleague, and friend, trusted me with a living thing that brought her joyful memories and the satisfaction that comes with helping something, or someone, thrive. That is her nature. I took that gift very seriously.

Since that day, fifteen years ago, I’ve not only taken great care with that plant, I’ve propagated many more from its leaves.

Antique African Violets, the mother plant now more than four generations old.

Others have shared their plants with me or given me plants as gifts. They too thrive in my garden. I research and apply their species’ needs, giving them the best chance at survival. I check them daily.

Why, you ask? Why is this so important? Because in an era where the world is focused on polarization, personal attacks, identity politics, and myriad other negative pursuits, I am choosing to focus on the loving act of sharing life between friends.

A cartwheel cactus I received as a cutting after a heavy pruning has now doubled in size; a philodendron cut from the same friend’s plant now cascades over the pot. Sunflowers grow wild: gifts from the birds. Ginger and orchids, given to me by a client who could not bear for them to be neglected after she moved from her home of twenty years, are now flourishing, constantly reminding me of her. I know each plant well, and I remember where it came from each time I tend to it. These are connections that I treasure.

Propagating a plant takes weeks, sometimes months of attention and care. When I give away a plant I’ve grown, it is not a frivolous thing. I am giving my time, my nurturing. I am telling you that you mean enough to me to entrust you with a thing that will bring you peace as you care for it; a peace I long for you to have. Many times, I take the time to prepare the vessel in which I give you this gift. I paint or decorate it in a way that I hope suits your tastes or communicates a message. On rare occasions, when I can afford it, I find an artist whose work is perfect for the plant and I invest in that vessel. To me, giving or receiving a plant is a very intimate thing indeed.

So, next time someone hands you a plant from their garden, understand that it’s not just a plant. It’s a living, breathing thing that may bring color to your life, or clean the air in your house, or give you food for your table. It is always more than just a plant.

African Violets, some as old as twenty years. 


The Year of a Hundred Things: Thing #100

I remember as a little girl having been born in a year ending in 5, counting by 5s and figuring out how old I’d be at the milestone markers. Wow, I thought, thirty-five in the year 2000. How utterly old I will be. Considering that I was in second grade at the time, I lacked perspective.

Life was pretty interesting for me at thirty-five. I hadn’t yet met my husband. In fact, I had made a habit of complicated and emotionally unavailable men. I was operating from the belief that I wasn’t acclimated to a life that included someone else. Seeking the inaccessible meant that I could enjoy the thrill of love without the messy details of commitment. It was genius. And it worked for a while. I had a lot of fun, and no one got hurt. Well…no one but me.

Five years later at forty, I was already married to the man that still tolerates the shifting sand under his feet. I’d resolved that I wasn’t as delightful as I had always fancied myself. In fact, I was a right pain in the ass. Fortunately, he loves a challenge. We struggled in our first few years to have children. I miscarried. We suffered four failed IUIs and two failed IVFs, until finally, after long having accepted that the delight of spontaneous and old-fashioned conception had eluded us, we made a little cocktail in a Petrie dish which became what is now the giggling sprite of the boy we love. So, for all you people who reach forty and think you have nothing to show for it, the two most amazing things in my life didn’t happen until this last decade.

On January 1st, 2015, I will start the countdown to my fiftieth birthday. It’s hard to even form the words, fiftieth birthday. I don’t feel fifty, and from what I’m told, I don’t look fifty, either. I’ll have to attribute that to good genes and a relatively healthy lifestyle. But the one thing that fifty brings me is a sense of peace about who I am.

So, as I stare down the big 5-0, I wonder at what is important to me and why. I wonder how many of you, my friends and readers, will have similar things, and if these pieces will resonate with you. I invite you to share those things with me, as well.

I present these things (and I use the term loosely) in no particular order, except for the last. The last will be the most important because it should have the most attention. The first…well…it’s something I look at every day.

“Thing” #100:

I am a little bohemian. Not a lot, because I am honest with myself (and a bit vain) that at 5’3″ big, flowing clothes don’t flatter. But, I am bohemian enough that, most of the time, I’d rather wear something that is comfortable and eclectic than something high-fashion. And when it has sentimental value, it becomes a talisman against the chronically negative. I abhor the chronically negative. It eats at my creativity and buries my mood under piles of emotional sludge.

So, I present item(s) 100: the gift(s). I have a few things that I wear, or carry, every day that were very thoughtful gifts. A bracelet from my sister, another from a friend who is profoundly connected to her friends’ needs. A have a few, each representing a particular story. In the image below, they lay atop a handmade art journal my sister gave me for Christmas this year. Each time I look at these things, I am reminded that someone took the time to think about me and send me a message in a gift. That is what love looks like. Small messages. These are reminders: little things that are hugely valuable to me.

Thing(1) - The Gift
Thing(1) – The Gift