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Gardening Lullaby

by Corliss P 4 months ago in science · updated 3 months ago

Plants are more like us than we understand

Daily when I come to the living room, I reflect on how I want to live my life. Whether day or night I find sanctuary in the quiet, bright and lively room, where I’ve placed some key treasures to declutter my mind.

As a person who adores nature, simplistic and natural beauty sings to my soul. I was raised on a small farm, and my love of the Earth has only grown larger as I matured. The animals were a happy sight, water pure, and the plants were splendid offerings. I moved to the city when I was young, but the memory of being barefoot, nourished from the Earth herself, running freely in open acres, and happily sleeping on the porch outside; the view of bright stars, listening to cricket song with the harmonizing frogs, friendly bugs and fresh air was my enticing version of paradise.

Gardening is one of the best things I could have taken up in my life, new to me in my adult life, a piece of myself is restored in the act. The smell of soil is my antidote: sweet, earthy, and a wetness like rain or, depending on the plant, morning dew yet somehow completely different than the mud pies I made with my sisters. The textures of different leaves and branches is a fun distraction from stressors of the world, and the song of life they sing resonates to my core. The concept itself, maintaining life, is one that I cherish.

I started too big when I first began the art, planting food is an exceptionally large prospect that cannot be taken lightly. I started off well; following books, YouTube, and fellow gardeners and sought to emotionally connect, as well as the basics like watering, potting, examinations and environmental temperament of the plants survival. One day, in my absence, my roommate had thrown away my precious seedlings, of which took me months to reach the point of development. I was crushed to say the least, and it was my sign to maybe start smaller.

Months later, I had left out of town on vacation, and while I was away my only other plants were killed due to lack of nourishment, though they were low maintenance. Two gorgeous succulents, male and female, that had stolen my heart when I had gone to a local store, not even looking for ‘decorative’ plants. I was in a section of the store that housed the “live items,” and as I was browsing the crystals, the wall of cacti and succulents cried out to me. I had them for nearly a year, and I loved petting, talking, and singing to them as I went about my life.

For a while, I took a break from the plants, but after some time to reflect I realized that gardening adds value to my life and soothes my spirit. I had a reckoning in the time of the pandemic, and I wanted to purchase more succulents, starting small. I went to an online seller that I should have stayed far away from; you know the saying too good to be true. The pictures online were of healthy, beautiful plants, and there were little complaints on the health of the plants, so I went forward.

When I got my package, I was heartbroken. One of the four plants was DOA (dead on arrival) and another dying; forthcoming, the other two were not as vibrant as the picture. This is not a review of my experience with the seller but my opinion, for ethics go a long way. Plants are alive, and though I was able to keep the other two as thriving, the other one had died tragically a few months later, unable to fully restore its health.

The single rooted Jade Plant was the first time I ever truly knew that plants felt suffering. When it first lost two of its leaves, I just thought that it needed a little extra TLC. That thought changed on my day off from work, the morning I checked on my plants. It was shriveled, the other two of it’s leaves all but a crisp. I cradled it, disbelief and grief in my heart. I went to relieve it of its leaves, prepared to dispose of the, what I had thought, dead plant. After I pulled its leaf, a soft, high pitched noise reached my ear drum, what anyone would call a scream, then weeping. (Even as I write this passage, the thought of this day still sends me into disarray, tears prick the back of my eyes and my stomach does pitfalls.) Shocked, I sat with the plant in my hand and cried. My older sister heard me and came to me, curious to what could have caused my emotional outburst.

Through gasping breathes I tried to explain the phenomena, heart broken for the suffering plant. She looked at me, not in disbelief because she knew the severity of the situation, eyeing my tears and trying to comprehend. I instructed her to clear her mind and for her to hold the plant, either touch the soil or the plant itself, for it still wept, even as we spoke.

My sister understands my sensitive essence since childhood and my adoration for nature evermore, so she took on my request knowing that the death of that particular plant would be something I spoke of until I meet the grave. She sat, prepared herself and touched the plant, and flinched; like she was electrocuted. Then she looked at it, like it was one of her hurt children wanting comfort. She held back tears unsuccessfully, but I know it was for my sake. My big sister, the one I turned to for so much, didn’t know what to do.

I moved to take the plant and held it close to me. My sister and I spoke for hours about possibilities, properties of life, talked about doing research because the experience was real, and questioned: how come this is not talked about in a more serious tone? Who is responsible for the callous culture of our counterparts that inhabits this Earth? Plants have feelings, something we were taught as a ‘human trait’.

Jack Schultz, a professor and Senior Executive Director for Researcher Development at University Missouri in the Interdisciplinary of Plant Group has spent the better part of half a century studying the very phenomena and wrote about some of his discoveries in his book, “Plant Signals Interactions with Other Organisms”, as well as other works. Another comprehensive piece, that sheds some light on the subject matter countifying life and will not leave you wanting is “Plants can see, hear and smell and respond,” by Josh Gabbatiss on the BBC website. This piece also speaks of a beloved documentary, “Life” a series narrated by David Attenborough.

I, like so many in the fast-paced technology era, searched for an answer and was disturbed and elated by the results I found. When you search, “do plants have feelings” the most common thing that comes up is articles that say plants have no nervous system and no brains so therefore, these magnificent beings are written off. When I read a lot of these articles my first thought was that jellyfish don’t have brains, yet are effective, intelligent hunters. Mushrooms do not have a nervous system, but they created a subway map more efficient than Japanese engineers.

After studying more about plants, and actively still learning I nourish my plants as best I can. With my best practices I enjoy my time with my beauties, and they have become part of my world and daily routines. So, after some light stretches and meditation, my treat is looking, touching, and singing to my plants. I have eight healthy and happy plants today that help me to ground myself and to nourish my ability to consistently uphold the care of another.

When I touch my Arrowhead plant, the sensation of soft leathery leaves relieves the tension that I sometimes hold in my belly, and her song makes me smile, her merriment contagious. My English Ivy is the Ying to her Yang, with gritty like micro hairs on each of the leaves helps me calm my thoughts. As I touch, my mind chooses to be in that moment, for my senses to emerge in the fun feeling, the smell, and even taste. I can nearly taste the color, I get so involved, a light tingle kind of like when you’ve spoke too much.

Being immersed in all their worlds, dare I even say personalities, has changed my world view. I’ve had “hippie” tendencies for a long time, and there is a certain joy and calmness that comes with the territory, not because of a label but because protecting precious beings that some people say have no voice boils passion that none other in this world can birth.

In reflection, I thought of how much responsibility and care influenced all my plants. That it was not just a hobby that I could casually undergo but it was true life-or-death responsibility. Though I always cared for them, my experience made me open my eyes to what you reap is what you sow in a literal way. My humanitarian ways flourished under that prospect, and my energy became contagious: I can happily report that family, friends, and in-laws have all adopted at least one plant.


Corliss P

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