The purchase that made staying at home for months bearable
When all the stores started closing and social distancing became the norm, I secretly looked forward to all the time I would now be able to spend at home. After buying groceries and toilet paper, I dutifully line up outside the hardware store to buy plants and other home improvement project supplies to keep my hands busy. While I’m waiting in line, I notice that everyone is leaving the store with shopping carts full of mini-gardens, potting soil, and buckets of paint. I’m not the only one on this wave of sprucing up my home, and I find that oddly comforting.
I take my plants home and place them in their appropriate sun spots. I introduce myself while watering them. Hi, little babies. I’m Leo. We’re about to witness some wild things together. And sure enough, we did.
They watched me attend Zoom meetings in my underwear, snacking on all the fruit, chips, and juices that I stacked offscreen. They laughed with me when I couldn’t figure out how to make bread like everyone else on Instagram. They didn’t judge me when I finally ordered takeout, sanitizing everything to the nth degree. They grieved with me while I read about George Floyd and the protests to follow. They cheered me on while I cooked cute little candlelit dinners for one — a treat I’ve been giving myself while recovering from a breakup during social distancing.
The $70 splurge on plants back in March has paid off tremendously. I bought the plants to make my space prettier and more livable, but they did so much more than that. Caring for plants has taught me how to better care for myself. My emotional, mental, and creative world are like a lush garden of their own.
Like plant care, self-care requires gentle diligence. As the days melt together in an undistinguishable block of time, I learn to sense when the plants need water. The plants don’t punish me for being late or question me for being early — they just say thank you. I’m learning to give myself the space I need for care as my intuition calls for it. I don’t question why I need to take so many baths in one week anymore. I just thank myself for doing it.
Plants grow slowly. The daily changes are invisible to the naked eye, but we trust that they are happening. After months of watering and encouragement, my plants’ growth still takes me by surprise. Where did all these leaves come from!? I run my fingers gently over the bounty of foliage in my living space. In the same way, I’ve learned to trust that the little changes I implement in my daily life, in the way that I view the world, are taking root in fertile soil. Even though I don’t see dramatic results overnight, my plant babies have taught me how to trust the process.
Plants have taught me to trust myself, and they continue to deepen my ability to trust others. Just as a plant needs harmony of water, sunlight, air, soil and encouragement, our collective growth depends on each of us doing our part to become more conscious people. And though it’s hard to believe this given our political climate, I believe that we’re each making little changes, invisible to the naked eye, on a daily basis. In a few years, we’ll look back at the seeds we planted and marvel at the lush, new world that we created.
Plants require harmony and balance. They ask the sunshine to work with the air, water, soil and encouragement that they receive to grow new leaves. Too much sunshine, and the plant dries out. If we try to build on the wrong soil, the plant’s roots won’t be able to take hold. I’m beginning to trust that each of us is doing our part to shape collective changes. Each of us, with our plant life in our separate living rooms, creating new oxygen to breathe together.
I scan my memories for that fateful weekend in March when I went plant shopping. I smile, thinking fondly about all the plants that went home with people in trunks, bicycle baskets, truck beds, and Ubers. I chuckle at the headlines I’ve read about people bringing home plants en masse during social distancing. Each of these people could be nurturing and tending their own inner gardens. Like me, each of these people are healing and growing.
Writer: Leo Aquino (they/them) is a storyteller living in Los Angeles. They love reading books on the beach and eating Filipino food. Follow Leo @sunshine.baby.leo.