lessons learned from houseplants

Early in the pandemic, I started collecting plants in my living room. Surrounding myself with green things helped provide peace of mind during a period of so much upheaval and tumult. Here was something I could control, something I could care for. All I needed was a little potting soil and some water from my kitchen sink.

As time has worn on, I’ve accumulated more and more plants. While my gardening knowledge remains minimal, there are a few things I’ve learned, simply from caring for these living things, day by day.

  • First and foremost, you can’t coax a plant to grow. It sprout and flourishes on its own time.
  • Occasionally, there are leaves and vines that will need pruning. You’ll have to snip and cut here and there, trimming down the short-term expansion for the sake of long-term growth.
  • Repotting a plant will allow it to flourish and stretch into more than it was, provided you continue to fulfill its basic needs.
  • Some leaves and chutes and vines will die on their own. Despite water and sunlight, they’ll wither for no particular reason. And there’s nothing you can do, but prune the dead parts to make space for the living ones.

Austin Kleon closes out his book, Keep Going, by reminding us that creativity–and indeed, life itself–is filled with seasons. Things come and go. There are periods of growth and expansion, followed by hibernation and constriction, then growth once again.

In my own life, I’ve seen this to be true. I’ve had many a creative project that withered on the vine. I’ve cut opportunities out of my life for the sake of creating most space to grow. Moving from the midwest to Los Angeles was a repotting of sorts, a self-inflicted trauma that provided an opportunity to flourish.

With all the talk of climate change, we often forget that we humans are ourselves a part of nature. It only makes sense we would follow its most basic rules.