One of my favorite perks to my home are the windows. My home is bathed in a warm glow of sunlight from tall, cathedral-esque windows. Plants climb up my walls on shelves and tables to twice my height. Its like a Beauty and the Beast library hall, but for plants, and just as reverent.
This all started a couple of summers ago. A friend of mine was traveling for work in Edinburgh and asked me to watch her plants at my home for a couple of months. Upon agreement, I drove my Toyota Highlander over to the place she was subletting, put all the seats down flat, and packed my SUV from the floor of the front passenger seat to the rear window. My car looked like I was going on a plant heist, agave leaves and jasmine flowers pressed against the windows. While she was gone that summer, I counted all of the plants in my one-room home and the total was over 70.
I babied those plants. Bought them worm fertilizer. Repotted them. Saved them from bug infestations. Watched them grow and change. Clapped for them when they did something new or made it through a particularly hard time. Months later, when my friend returned from her travels, the plants also returned to their keeper.
Giving her plants back was hard for me. After a summer with them, my home looked barren without a bounty of plants. Shelves I’d built just for them were empty. Tables and surfaces all looked so blank. The smell of blooming jasmine no longer floated in the air while I slept. I almost missed cactus spines turning the soft pads of my fingers into pin cushions.
Day by day, week by week, paycheck by paycheck, I visited plant stores throughout Seattle, picking out one new plant at a time. First the jasmine sambac, and then the agave. Then I started branching out from what I was used to from babysitting my friend’s plants and followed my own bliss: desert rose, fiddle leaf fig, prayer plants. People started giving me plants they weren’t caring for anymore and I brought them back to life. I built more shelves. The plants spilled out onto my porch: white sage, lavender, passionflower.
I was addicted. Jasmine flowers littered my floor in the mornings. Begonias stretched further than they could bear and dropped branches onto my head. Aloe leaves overgrew, so I’d pluck them off and rub them into my skin. Whenever I left my home, I would run my hands through the chamomile to release their scent and pick a bit of catnip to eat. Neighborhood cats liked the catnip too, so I had to build a barrier to deter them from rolling in one of my favorite treats. I carried passionflowers in my hair, their scent wafting around my face to both soothe and enliven me.
In the winter I learned that outdoor plants cannot be indoor plants, no matter how cold it gets. In the spring, I was rewarded with brilliant new growth. Summers sometimes got a little too dry. Fall was a season of color.
Now, with over 70 plants again, my days begin and end with watering. I spritz the jasmine, as she is a fragrant jungle baby. I soak the succulents in the shower with the drain plugged. I drown the avocado and the coffee plant until their soil is soppy.
They take care of me as much as I take care of them. Nurturing them nurtures me. They clean my air. They keep me honest. I see my patterns and needs reflected in them: food, water, light. They have basic needs, just like me. Sometimes I think I live better, because I have them to care for.
While all this snow lately has been lovely, I miss the spring. I’m ready for spring. I want to smell the flowers again.