Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Alert to Growth

I have a history of killing houseplants. It's not that I set out to do so. I sincerely want to be surrounded by leafy, blossoming things, as I was growing up in my parents' house. I am an inconsistent plant parent. I alternate between overwatering and underwatering. I have better luck in the garden. Under the sun and sky, my efforts matter less. 

Last summer we inherited a banana tree plant from one of Don's co-workers. We left it on our patio, which gets the hot morning sun, and promptly forgot to water it or to pay any attention to it at all. Eventually Don rescued it by putting it in a larger pot and setting it on the hearth inside. It began to thrive, growing taller and sprouting a new stalk within the first few weeks. At Christmas time, I decorated it with sock monkey ornaments.

Who doesn't love a sock monkey in a purple tutu or a Santa costume?
Earlier this summer I noticed the central stalk's leaves were getting brown. I figured I was performing my usual involuntary plantslaughter and tried to ignore it. 

Last week I took a good long look at that plant and decided to do something on its behalf. With kitchen shears I cut away a few dead leaves. It still looked like a dead plant, but with a few less dead leaves. It needed stronger medicine, so I took a sharp knife to the central stalk and cut it almost to the top of the potting soil.

Remember the new stalk that sprouted after it was transplanted and brought inside?

There was already a whole new healthy plant growing alongside the dying part.

The plant was now two healthy, thriving, green-as-could-be stalks that were apparently waiting to be recognized as the replacement plant. So captured was I by the plant's withering leaves, and my part in this failure, I was not captivated by the fresh growth.  An unfortunate part of my temperament gets so caught up in grieving what's lost, I forget to be alert to new growth. 

More new growth

On closer inspection yesterday, I noticed a new shoot sprouting out of the stump of the central stalk. This is a good plant. It has survived neglect, transplantation, my clumsy care and an amputation. My yoga training teaches that death and rebirth are happening simultaneously, in life writ large and small. This is not a matter of faith. It is a fact of life, illustrated beautifully on my hearth. It happens in its own time, of its own accord, independent of me and my efforts.